LET'S TALK ABOUT SEXUAL ASSAULT (TRIGGER WARNING!)
I'm almost finished with my MSW, and this past school year my internship has been with a rape crisis center. As a certified sexual assault crisis counselor, I work on the hotline, I accompany and advocate during forensic exams for people who have just been assaulted, and I provide crisis intervention counseling.
- 1.Here are some facts:
- 2.Sexual violence is surrounded by social context.And it is perpetuated by social norms that condone violence, use power over others, challenge traditional constructs of masculinity, and promote silence about violence and abuse (National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 2016).
- 3.Rape is not sex.Sex is consensual. Sex requires enthusiastic consent from both parties. Rape is rape, and rape is violent even if it doesn't look like it sometimes.
- 4.Rape is not about sex, it's about power and control.It always has been. Pillaging a village always included raping. The Bible has endless depictions of rape, including one where a father offers his daughter to a hoard of men who want to rape an angel. It's not about sex. It's about gaining power.
- 5.Fight, flight, or freeze.When we enter into a situation where we are in danger, our adrenaline kicks in and our brains make a decision. We stay and fight, we flee, or we freeze. People don't really know about the freeze part. Oftentimes I hear survivors talking about their assault with guilt. "I should have fought him." "I couldn't move." Trauma forces our brains and bodies to go into survival mode. That's why we sometimes have a hard time recalling the details of trauma.
- 6.Every response is a normal response.Can't stop eating Doritos? Normal. Sleeping with a ton of people? Normal. Crying all the time? Normal. Super jumpy? Normal. Want to tell everyone about the assault? Normal. Feel like dying? Normal.
- 7.There is no such thing as a "perfect victim".The world likes to think of sexual assault like a Law and Order SVU episode. Pretty straight, white, cisgender girl is running in the park when all of a sudden... BOOM! SHE'S RAPED BY A STRANGER WHO WAS HIDING IN THE BUSHES! 1. Sexual assault does not discriminate. Survivors of sexual assault look like our friends, our family, our neighbors, and us. 2. Stranger rape is not common. The most common form of sexual assault is intimate partner violence, which was legal until recently. Sorry SVU.
- 8.1 in 5 women have been raped at some point in their lives.That number is skewed because most assaults are not reported.
- 9.1 in 2 women have encountered sexual violence other than rape in their lives.
- 10.Nearly 1 in 5 men have encountered sexual violence other than rape in their lives.
- 11.You don't have to report.This is hard for people. My job as an advocate is to support the survivor. If she or he does not want to report, that's her or his choice. Like I said before, rape is about taking power away. What happens after that HAS to be the decision of the survivor/victim (I use the term interchangeably, some prefer one and some the other).
- 12.If you have a friend who has been sexually assaulted, support and validate them in the way they ask.Take their lead. Do not pressure them into things they are not comfortable with (like telling others, reporting etc.). If they do want to report but the other person is a friend of yours, guess what? That person is a piece of shit and should go to jail. Don't be that asshole who doesn't support your friend!
- 13.Sex workers can be sexually assaulted.And guess what? They usually get arrested for sex work, and they usually aren't believed when they report the crime.
- 14.OVER 1 in 2 trans people will be sexually assaulted.RAPE IS NOT ABOUT SEX. RAPE IS ABOUT POWER AND CONTROL.
- 15.If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call 1-800-656-4673 or visit www.rainn.org for an online hotline