Editor’s Note: This article contains the topic of sexual assault and rape. The following may be triggering for some readers.
In light of the recent event awarding Tarana Burke for her work in social justice, it is imperative to continue to shed light on the topic of sexual assault and violence. The topic of sexual assault is not talked about very often. It is a topic that is often kept unspoken and hidden. However, it is important that sexual assault and violence are talked about because not talking about it encourages a culture of silence.
RAINN.org, a website dedicated to sexual violence awareness, states that every 73 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. Sexual assault can take many different forms and be defined in different ways, but one thing remains the same: it’s never the victim’s fault.
Burke said that telling the story is part of the process of healing. However, victims are often blamed when they come forward. Victim blaming is an act that occurs when the victim of a crime is held responsible for the crime that has been committed against them. The stigma that “women are asking for it” is a form of blame-shifting; it is a way to push the blame towards the victim rather than hold the abuser accountable. This can often discourage survivors from coming forward. That is why people do not speak up about their abuse.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, rape is the most under-reported crime, with 63 percent of sexual assaults going unreported to police. For female college students specifically, RAIIN states that only 20 percent of female student victims, age 18-24, report to law enforcement.
Rape is constantly portrayed a certain way in the media, in the courts and on college campuses and can even go as far to say that it is normalized in society.
Due to mild treatment of perpetrators and abrasive treatment of victims within the criminal justice system, consistent depictions of sexual violence against women in popular culture, and the continuation of assaults on college campuses, sexual assaults, rapes, and the ongoing violence against women have become normalized in the United States.
If you or someone you know is a survivor of sexual assault, you are not alone. Sexual assault is a worldwide epidemic. It is an invasion of a person’s body. National Sexual Violence Resource Center also states that in the U.S., one in three women and one in six men experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime.
Being sexually assaulted can be extremely difficult to talk about, let alone come to terms with. However, if you are not able to speak about it, you do not have to.
If you see someone who looks like they need help, it is important to:
- Steer clear of judgment: It is not easy to speak out about an assault, whether it occurred years ago or days ago. It takes time and trust for someone to speak openly about their stories and relive their trauma; do not take advantage of it. Believe their story.
- Check in with them every now and then: Sometimes survivors can re-open their trauma and it can be difficult to fully heal from their experience. Just check up on them and let them know that they are
- Know your resources: Guide them to seek help if need be. There are many organizations available both on and offline, therefore, it is important to send survivors towards the right direction. The National Sexual Assault Hotline 800.656.HOPE (4673) is available as well as Tarana Burke’s website, MeeTooMvmt.org, provides a healing resource library for survivors. Counseling and Psychological Services at Cabrini also provides free and confidential counseling for students.