Listen, following the most recent events surrounding Judge Brett Kavanagh, it’s time we talk about sexual assault and rape culture. Every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted. According to RAINN, there is an average of about 321,500 victims of sexual violence in the united states each year. That is one out of every six women, and 1 out of every ten men, and yes, men can be victims of sexual assault too.
Sexual assault and abuse happen all too often in our society, unfortunately, with the continually butting heads of men and women alike, the core reason for these assaults and how we stop them is split. So, what can we as a people do to combat this crisis? Support our survivors.
Supporting those who have survived sexual assault, is an integral part of their healing process. One of the most important things we can do for survivors is letting them know you believe them. Using questions or statements towards the victim that shame or question their truthfulness can infer that they are to blame. Often people may think that they are at fault for their attack. Which isn’t true! There is nothing that anyone can do that would make sexual assault okay. Not the clothes they have worn, the way they acted, the things they said, etc. There is no excuse for the violence they went through.
You must listen without passing judgment. Asking questions like “how drunk were you?” “what were you wearing?” gives off a feeling of not only judgment but once again, blame. Keep in mind that if someone is sharing this story with you, it is likely you are the first person to know. It’s essential that you suspend judgment and bias so that you can support them. Sometimes, words are not helpful, just letting the person open up and share their experience can be a huge relief.
Supporting their decisions is equally important, “It is critical for a victim/survivor to regain their sense of control and agency. Support their decisions instead of pushing them to take actions that they may not feel comfortable with” (NoMore.org). It’s important to realize that some victims do not want to go to the police, or seek counseling, and pushing them to make these decisions, is not a good way to help them. Lightly encourage them to reach out to hotlines for assistance and anonymously receive help. Realize their confidentiality, do not share their story with others, unless you feel they are in immediate danger themselves or to others, then dial 911.
Sexual abuse does not discriminate; men can be sexually assaulted and abused as well as women. When you are supporting a man who has been a victim of sexual assault, it's crucial to realize society's role and stigma that surrounds the abuse of men. For a man to heal from this event, they must overturn the socio-cultural idea of masculinity that discourages vulnerability and emotionality. Let them know that the act of speaking out is courageous, not weak, and does not diminish their masculinity.
With any survivor of abuse, it is important to let them know they are not alone, it’s not their fault, and it’s okay to speak up! Healing takes time, and trauma is normal. But, there will always be someone there for them when they need it, and that person is you.
Information provided by: RAINN and NoMore.org
Picture provided by: Legal Aid Nova Scotia