Every 73 seconds, 1 in 6 women and 1 in 10 men are sexually assaulted in the United States. Although those numbers may seem small, they add up to a total of about 434,000 people yearly. One of those 434,000 people might be someone you know and care about. Survivors often feel alone after being assaulted, due to not being believed, being blamed, or being too scared to say anything due to fear of backlash.
If someone you know has the courage to come forward to you about being sexually assaulted, there are many ways you can help.
1. Let them know they are in a safe space.
It takes so much for survivors to come forward about what they have been through. Some survivors can take months or even years to speak up, if at all. When someone chooses to speak up to you, make it known to them that they are in a safe space. You can do this by remaining calm and letting them know you're proud of them for coming forward. This can be an emotional experience for survivors, so listening and being a shoulder to cry on is a huge part of making survivors feel safe, as well. Allow them to just get everything off their chest and be as emotional as they need without interruption or badgering.
2. Never victim-blame.
One huge reason why survivors take a very long time to come forward, or never come forward at all, is victim-blaming. Victim-blaming includes asking questions like "What were you wearing?" or "Why did you get so drunk?" Victim-blaming makes survivors regret coming forward and believe that what happened to them is their fault. Instead of telling survivors what they should have been wearing or that they shouldn't have been so drunk, the focus should be more on holding attackers accountable for their crimes. Let's get one thing clear that should've been clear a long time ago — sexual assault is never the survivor's fault. Nobody asks to be sexually assaulted.
3. Let them know they have options.
Survivors may not know what to do after being sexually assaulted. Be sure to let them know they have options, and they can pick whichever they feel most comfortable with. Medical, legal, and campus resources are some of the many options survivors have to choose from. Some survivors may choose not to take action for several reasons, but only they can decide what is best for them. Just let them know services and resources are available to them whenever they feel comfortable using them.
Sexual assault is when any kind of sexual act is committed without someone's consent. This includes, but is not limited to, rape or unwanted touching. If it's forceful or not consensual, it's sexual assault. Sexual assault can be committed by strangers or someone you know and trust. If you have been sexually assaulted, know you have options and safe spaces such as the confidential National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-4673. This service is completely confidential and will supply you with resources. 434,000 a year needs to turn into 0. To the survivors: You're not alone.
April 2020 marks 19 years of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Find information on SAAM here.