April is National Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Awareness Month.
According to RAINN ( Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network ), every 73 seconds, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted.
And every 9 minutes, that vicitm is a child.
These statistics are not meant to scare you, but instead let you know if you identify within them, you are not alone. As a victim advocate, I often hear survivors say they feel like no one understands what they’ve been through, they don’t want to burden others with their trauma, or they feel like they should just be able to move on. If someone who is a survivor of sexual assault shares with you any part of their story, here are some things to help:
- Listen, without judgment
- Show the person you believe them and take what you are being told seriously
- Offer a safe space for them to share what they choose to
- Keep the conversation confidential (unless disclosing child abuse then call 855-444-3911)
- Assist with searching for community assistance if the survivor wants
- Victim Blame – Nothing they did or didn’t do made them deserve any part of what happened to them
- Ask them details about what happened, but actively listen if they do want to discuss it
- Tell them how they should feel or to “move on”
- Ask why they did not make a police report, if they chose not to
- Fill in words, finish their sentences, or make assumptions
People who have experienced or are currently experiencing trauma may not want to contact support services. Sometimes a person is just seeking someone to talk to and when discussing options, a victim should feel in control of the situation. Support services may be declined due to cultural or religious beliefs, fear, previous experiences with support agencies etc. Respect their decisions on what they decide to do moving forward, let them know you are there to support them in what they want to do.
What can you do to make a difference?
Educate yourself. There is no ‘profile’ of a sexual assault and/or child abuse victim or offender. These crimes does not discriminate based on class and race, through poverty and privilege. These are just a few writings to start your search towards becoming educated on this topic:
NOT THAT BAD BY ED. ROXANE GAY
I HAVE THE RIGHT TO BY CHESSY PROUT
NICE TO MEET ME BY CHRIS CARLTON
THINGS WE DIDN’T TALK ABOUT WHEN I WAS A GIRL BY JEANNIE VANASCO
KNOW MY NAME BY CHANEL MILLER
QUEERING SEXUAL VIOLENCE BY JENNIFER PATTERSON
*DISCLAIMER: Common Ground has no affiliation with these books or authors, they are used as a starting point for educationa purposes only*
How can Common Ground help?
The mission of our Victim Assistance Program (VAP) is to provide support to victims in the aftermath of the crime or their family members through a variety of direct intervention and advocacy services. Our Victim Assistance Program serves 7 counties in Southeast Michigan and works with all victims of crime, including sexual assault and child abuse.
Just to name some specific services provided:
- Access to 24-hour emergency advocacy
- Short-term face-to-face crisis intervention
- 24-hour emergency crisis intervention and referral services
- Criminal justice system and court accompaniment
- Accompaniment to hospitals and medical proceedings related to victimization
- Information, assistance and accompaniment for individuals seeking Personal Protection Order (PPO)
- Assistance in filing Michigan Crime Victim Compensation applications
- Civil court system assistance and court accompaniment related to victimhood issues
- Support groups for survivors of homicide victims, domestic abuse victims, and victims of sexual assault