Voices of our Community

Apr082016

Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Available Resources

by Erin Famularo

While the nation brings awareness to the issue of sexual assault, you can participate by transforming yourself and others into powerful educators and advocates. With 1 in 5 women and 1 in 6 men being sexually abused before they even turn 18, it is important for everyone to be equipped with the knowledge of where to seek help for yourself and others.
 
Navigating the healing process is often a complicated experience. However, there are resources available to make it a little easier. Becoming familiar with these is an important step in participating in Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The following are just a few resources and tips to keep in mind:
  • If you do not know the number for your local crisis center and need immediate assistance, call (800)-656-4673.  The number will connect you with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

  • Use your State Sexual Assault Coalition as a reference

    • One of Georgia's State Coalitions, The Georgia Network to End Sexual Assault, offers a detailed list of crisis centers in the state of Georgia. Crisis Centers play a vital role in each community by providing a safe space for healing to women and men who experience sexual violence. 

  • Use these tips on how to help a loved one who has experienced sexual assault. 

  • If a survivor discloses that they have been assaulted, RAINN has provided the following appropriate and supportive responses:

    1. “I’m sorry this happened.” Acknowledge that the experience has affected their life. Phrases like “This must be really tough for you,” and, “I’m so glad you are sharing this with me,” help to communicate empathy.

    2.  “It’s not your fault.” Survivors may blame themselves, especially if they know the perpetrator personally. Remind the survivor, maybe even more than once, that they are not to blame.

    3. “I believe you.” It can be extremely difficult for survivors to come forward and share their story. They may feel ashamed, concerned that they won’t be believed, or worried they’ll be blamed. Leave any “why” questions or investigations to the experts—your job is to support this person. Be careful not to interpret calmness as a sign that the event did not occur—everyone responds differently. The best thing you can do is to believe them.

    4. “You are not alone.” Remind the survivor that you are there for them and willing to listen to their story. Remind them there are other people in their life who care and that there are service providers who will be able to support them as they recover from the experience.

    5. “Are you open to seeking medical attention?” The survivor might need medical attention, even if the event happened a while ago. You can support the survivor by offering to accompany them or find more information. It’s ok to ask directly, “Are you open to seeking medical care?”

    6. “You can trust me.” If a survivor opens up to you, it means they trust you. Reassure them that you can be trusted and will respect their privacy. Always ask the survivor before you share their story with others. If a minor discloses a situation of sexual abuse, you are required in most situations to report the crime. Let the minor know that you have to tell another adult, and ask them if they’d like to be involved.

    7. “This doesn’t change how I think of you.” Some survivors are concerned that sharing what happened will change the way other people see them, especially a partner. Reassure the survivor that surviving sexual violence doesn’t change the way you think or feel about them.

  • Know Your IX provides the following tips on what NOT to do when someone discloses that they have been sexually assaulted:

    1.  Question the validity of the victim’s claims. A victim’s worst fear is not being believed. Having someone question whether or not a person was actually violated, assaulted, or raped is a huge insult that can shake a survivor to his or her core. They have decided to trust you with a very personal story and they count on your support. Doubting the validity of their claims will only cause them more pain. Also, remember that over 92-98% of REPORTED rapes are not false reports. If they choose to report, many others will be skeptical — you can leave that job to police, school administrators, rape culture, etc.

    2. Seem cold or unapproachable. If you do this, the survivor may feel like they have no right to talk about what has happened to them. They may feel confused and lost as they struggle to reconcile a dismissive attitude towards their struggle with their own pain. Don’t make this situation more difficult than it needs to be for them. Open yourself up to them and make your presence and support known.

    3. Make excuses for the perpetrator. The assailant’s actions are inexcusable. Don’t suggest that the survivor approach the assailant to make sense of what happened or to “clear the air.” Don’t suggest a simple apology will remedy the problem.

    4. Tell the survivor what they must do. You can suggest what course of action they can take, particularly if they ask for your advice. Suggest resources they may use or offer to explore resources available to them, such as filing a report with law enforcement, talking with an attorney, seeking out therapy or medical aid, and talking to a rape hotline.

    5. Minimize the assault. Remember that one kind of rape or assault — by a stranger, an acquaintance, a friend, a partner — isn’t more or less “legitimate” than another. Don’t anticipate the ways in which a particular type of violence will affect a survivor, and don’t expect that one is necessarily more traumatic than another.

    6. Question why the survivor has decided to tell you now, even if it has been months or years since the assault.

    7. Shoulder the burden alone. A survivor may demand more of you than you are able to give. You are probably not trained to manage a survivor’s recovery, and may be emotionally exhausted. Be kind and honest with the victim about what you are able to do, and encourage him or her to seek professional help through a hotline or therapist.

    8.  Share the survivor’s story without his or her permission. 

For more information on sexual assault and services, please visit:
RAINN
DOJ
NSVRC

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