No, this is not a political piece.
News about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh being accused of sexual assault and actor Bill Cosby getting sentenced for sexual assault have been the top stories in the news lately. These events have sparked people to share their own stories of why they didn't report their sexual assault to the police in a series of tweets with the hashtag #whyIdidntreport.
Now, I am not trying to make a political statement. Rather, I want to show my support for those who can relate to the hashtag.
It hasn't happened to me, but it has happened to some very good friends of mine, and I just want them all to know that I am here for them and I love them.
One thing we can do is offer survivors love and support. They went through something horrific, and they are going to need a shoulder to cry on. For all the guys, gals, and non-binary pals, even if you can't relate to what survivors are going through, just listening to them will really mean a lot to them.
Also, ask them what they need. Do they want to talk? Do they need to go to the doctor or the emergency room? Do they need you to make some calls for them? Keep in mind that they may be shocked and unsure of what to do.
You should encourage them to seek help, and the most time-sensitive one is the medical help, as there is the possibility of the victim having contracted a sexually transmitted disease and/or become pregnant from the encounter. And if they later decide to press charges, the case is considerably weakened with no physical evidence. An ER doctor can provide a forensic medical exam, commonly referred to as a rape kit. If they choose to, they can press charges later, but a medical exam is most important to their mental and physical health in the moment.
Another thing we can do is look out for one another so it doesn't happen to anyone else. Don't let anyone go off with anyone that they don't know and know that if someone is drunk or incoherent they cannot give consent. I learned while doing AlcoholEdu that if you see a friend or a roommate about to go off with someone they don't know, send someone up there to distract that said person and get them talking while you take your friend home.
I would also recommend watching "The Hunting Ground" on Netflix. This documentary talks about sexual assault on campus, and it features a song called "'Til It Happens To You" sung by Lady Gaga, which talks about sexual assault in a powerful way. I personally think that all schools should show this film just to educate others on what sexual assault is like.
Sexual assault is also portrayed in the Netflix show "13 Reasons Why," where many different instances of assault have happened to several characters. The show portrays slut shaming, reporting but not believing, the Brock Turner-like prison sentences, and of course support groups. It did right by having trigger warnings at the beginning of each episode in season two, but I can imagine it was still hard for people to watch.
Support any survivors if they choose to take their perpetrator to court, and support them if they don't. Either way, it is hard for them, and it is going to be even worse so give them a hug, offer to go with them to court if they choose to report, or even go to counseling with them. Just be there when they need it the most.
National Sexual Assault Hotline1-800-656-4673