Posted by Collaborative Counseling
Recently, there has been a spotlight on sexual assault in the media. This is an unprecedented moment in time highlighting just how prevalent this issue is in our society today. With movements such as “me too” leading the way, many survivors have found the courage to come forward and tell their story while bringing much needed awareness to the issue. While we are making strides in the right direction, we still have work to do when it comes to confronting and ending sexual assault and the stigma that comes along with it.
What is Sexual Assault?
The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) defines sexual assault as: “sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim.” Some examples of sexual assault are:
- Attempted rape
- Unwanted touching
- Forcing a victim to perform sexual acts- this can include both physical and psychological pressures such as threats or manipulation
- Rape (forced sexual intercourse)
Who is Affected by Sexual Assault?
Both males and females experience sexual assault. 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men are survivors of sexual assault. Young women are especially vulnerable. Almost 80% of female victims are under the age of 25 when they were first assaulted. Additionally, most victims know their perpetrators. People such as a family member or an intimate partner, can be perpetrators as well as an acquaintance.
What Can I Do?
First, it is important to remember that sexual assault is never the survivors fault. Knowing the steps to take when you feel something isn’t right is key. When you see a person at-risk of sexual assault, RAINN suggests taking the following steps:
- Create a Distraction- try to interrupt the situation to give the person a chance to get away and to a safe place.
- Ask Directly- speak directly to the person who may be at-risk asking questions like “Would you like me to stay with you?”
- Refer to an Authority- find a neutral party with authority such as an RA, security guard, bartender or call 911 if you are concerned for someone’s safety.
- Enlist Others- find someone to go with you to confront the situation or someone who knows the person you are concerned about.
If you suspect someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault there are some things you can do. Remember that it is important to avoid judgement and to listen. Simple phrases such as: “I believe you” “It’s not your fault” and “You are not alone” offer validation and support to survivors. Know that the trauma from the assault can be short-term or long lasting, every survivor responds differently. Be patient and encourage them to seek support but realize that is their decision to make.
We can all do things to prevent sexual assault, even if we are not able to directly step in to prevent it. Even a simple action such as offering a safe ride home from a party could prevent an assault. The biggest and longest lasting change can only happen with a shift in culture and our collective way of thinking about sexual violence. To learn more about sexual assault and what you can do to help, visit: https://rainn.orgRead More