For the past couple months I interned at my county’s rape crisis center. I listened to people describe how they had survived all forms of sexual assault, abuse, and rape every day. After someone asks about your summer, try explaining that you listened to stories of tragic sexual assaut. It often stuns them into an awkward silence as they aren’t quite sure how to respond. For me that is both good and bad. On one hand, it is always disappointing that people are too uncomfortable to talk about such a widespread and critical issue. On the other hand, their silence gives me the perfect opportunity to stand up and speak out. But I can’t be the only one speaking so I want to arm you with some facts I learned this summer so that you can help me too.
I need you to speak.
We all should be talking about sexual assault. We should discuss assault with our friends, our coworkers, and our families. As many as 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. This is an issue that affects all genders, all races, and all socioeconomic statuses. I promise that you know at least one survivor; I can also promise you that you know at least one offender (about 1 in 30 men). These numbers are highly problematic. Sexual assault survivors have a great deal to lose. Surviving sexual assault is a traumatic experience that can have lifelong effects. Many survivors feel guilt or shame about what happened to them because society tells the survivor that it was somehow their fault. So let me make myself clear: sexual assault is always the fault of the perpetrator and NEVER the fault of the survivor.
I need you to speak!
If you catch someone saying that maybe a survivor was too drunk, dressed the wrong way, or was asking for it; I need you to tell him or her that NO ONE asks to be sexually assaulted. Furthermore, to add insult to injury, when survivors come forth they may be dismissed and their claims not considered truthful. They are often threatened and scolded as liars by the very people they depend on to protect them. This can happen for numerous reasons, but the most common reason is they are not believed because their perpetrator is someone they know. Maybe a child was raped by a relative or a close family friend. You would not believe how many mothers protect and believe offenders over their own children. So, if someone comes to you and confides in you that they have been sexually assaulted;
I NEED YOU TO SPEAK!
I need you to tell them that you believe them. If an institution wants to silence a survivor in defense of their own reputation, I need you to speak. There is no organization that does not have a responsibility to honestly protect survivors and prevent assaults.
I NEED YOU TO SPEAK!
It can be hard and even dangerous for some survivors to speak. So I need you to fight against rape culture, support out survivors, educate your friends and family, and I NEED YOU TO SPEAK!
If you are in need of crisis services or counseling please contact The Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio (SARNCO)