Guest Post by: Liz Bayer, LLPC, First Response/Court Advocate, HAVEN
Many underestimate the impact of sexual violence in their communities. People want to believe that it happens somewhere out there in the world, and although it’s tragic, it’s not happening to those around them. When in reality, it is estimated that that every 2 minutes another American is sexually assaulted in the United States (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network – RAINN). Chances are someone you know has been affected, as it is a social issue that impacts people of all social classes, racial and ethnic backgrounds, and communities.
If so many people are affected, why don’t I hear more about it?
Many survivors feel uncomfortable coming forward. Our society has a way of placing blame on survivors of sexual violence, when in truth 100% of the blame should be directed instead to the perpetrators. We ask questions like, “What were you thinking going to that party” and “What were you wearing.” These questions only serve to hurt the survivor more, as if they are somehow at fault.
Truth is nothing we wear, say, or do makes it permissible for someone else to be violent. Those who commit acts of violence make their own decisions. They chose to be violent just as easily as the vast majority of us chose everyday not to be.
Statistics on sexual violence can appear quite bleak. RAINN estimates that 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail. Most perpetrators of sexual violence will walk away without any adverse changes to their life. While survivors of sexual violence, on the other hand, may never be the same. Agencies like HAVEN exist to assist with the healing process, but the road can be quite daunting for survivors.
As with any key social issue, many people feel that speaking up will only make things worse. Speaking up can be a scary thing in that we realize how close to home the issue is. Talking about it for some provides the realization that if it hasn’t happened to me or someone I care about – it could. So many people chose to ignore sexual violence to hide from their fears.
However, speaking up is exactly what we should be doing to not only bring awareness to the unacceptable crimes of sexual violence but to empower survivors to not live in fear. As survivors unite, and the community works together to address issues of sexual violence, true healing can begin. The more we know as a community the more we can DO to take part in uncovering the solution to end sexual violence.
Throughout this Sexual Assault Awareness Month, HAVEN has been engaging in activities to raise public awareness about the impact of sexual violence. Please join HAVEN and Affirmations for a Take Back the Night event on April 25 from 5 – 9 p.m. at Affirmations in Ferndale. For questions about the event contact Liz Bayer at firstname.lastname@example.org.