Written by Jenna Ratzlaff
I want to give a context warning of what will be talked about in this post, so you are able to take care of yourself in the best way possible. During the month of March, our posts will be highlighting the importance of Sexual Assault Awareness month and how we can be effective advocates, organizational leaders, and support systems to survivors. Please take care of yourself as this is heavy content to read about and discuss. If you need immediate support please call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1 (800) 656-4673 (available 24/7).
There are many ways that we- as allies and as a society-can support survivors of sexual violence.
From the perspective of a friend or family member, we need to ask the survivor(s), “how can I help you?” Do not make assumptions about the ways they might want help. Ask, accept what they tell you, and give them a safe and brave space for healing.
For organizations who work with survivors, the most vital piece is to ensure the approaches you are using are trauma informed. This might mean looking at all your approaches, piece by piece, and using an adequate tool to help determine whether your organization is trauma informed. One of the best places to start looking is the core principles of trauma-informed care. It may be helpful to seek professional guidance from there.
Also essential for organizations to remember is that the survivors you are helping have been through a lot. The way they respond to your help may not be what you expect. Be patient, use the tactics you’ve learned from trauma informed care education, and walk along the survivor as a support.
As a society, there is much work we can do to prevent sexual violence. If you see something, say something. We often worry about getting caught up in someone else’s business or think we have no right to interject, but if you see something happening that is not okay, SPEAK UP. If you are uncomfortable doing this alone, get others to help. Do not be a bystander.
Encourage open discussion amongst children and other young ones in your life regarding safe touch, inappropriate touch, and establishing a safe place for them to talk about it. There are resources to use when seeking guidance on starting these conversations. No age is too young to start these conversations because sexual violence does not have an age limit.
Providing a space for conversations surrounding sexual violence in schools, work, churches, community organizations, and homes can help break the pattern of sexual violence that occurs every 98 seconds in the United States.
If you are a survivor of sexual violence, know you are not alone. You are brave, you are resilient, and you have many people who are here to support you, even if we do not know you personally. If you need help, please reach out to someone you trust or the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800. 656.HOPE
Together, we can build a more trauma informed society that can help amplify the voices of survivors and create a safer world for us all to live in.
To search for additional support groups and resources near you, search here.