One in four
by Emma Rose Kraus
Around the world, billions of women and men live as survivors of sexual assault and in April, Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we are all specifically asked to reflect on our parts in rape culture and learn what we can do to spread awareness about the emotional and physical damages of sexual assault.
“Sexual assault and domestic violence can happen to anyone,” says Bridgette Mavec, Executive Vice President of Clinical Services at Newhouse Domestic Violence Shelter in Kansas City, Mo. “It doesn’t just happen to poor people or people that aren’t aware or minorities or women who aren’t taking care of themselves.”
It’s true, one in four women experiences domestic violence within her lifetime while one in six women will experience attempted or completed rape. Men also struggle with sexual assault, the National Institute of Justice and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report one in 33 men will experience attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.
With this many people around the world experiencing some form of sexual violence in their lifetime, the possibility of knowing someone who has been in such a situation is extremely likely.
This being so, it is of great importance to know what survivors of sexual assault may need most.
Karla Dobter, Senior Director of Sexual Violence Prevention and Response at YWCA in Oklahoma City says belief and resources are the key things that survivors of rape and sexual assault require.
“One of the priceless things an individual can do is to not question somebody’s actions or question whether or not they were really assaulted and to say, ‘I’m so sorry to hear that this happened to you, let me link you into some resources,’” relays Dobter. “‘Let’s call this hotline together so we can give you the support that you need.’”
“We start by believing,” agrees Tiffany Barrett, Director of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation House of Hope in Oklahoma. “We take them at their word; we don’t doubt what they say. We give [the survivor] some resources but we also let them guide us in what they need.”
There are also many more things one can do to aid organizations in their efforts to advocate for survivors.
“Raising awareness, partnering with local agencies, donating to them, they are the experts,” says Mavec. “We’ve been around for 47 years; this is what we do. [Be] an advocate on your local level to help an agency on more of a macro level.”
“We have a clothing closet that receives donations,” Barrett imparts. “We usually need maternity clothes; we see a lot of women who are pregnant and need clothes and medical scrubs; those kinds of things can mean the most.”
Both Mavec and Dobter want people to understand the hand sexism and rape culture have had on the problems of dehumanization and sexual assault.
“Often problems traditionally called ‘women’s problems’ aren’t taken as seriously by the law,” reports Mavec. “A lot of people don’t understand what’s really going on and how abusers and people who commit sexual assault are not held that accountable.”
“When you look at ads and commercials and magazines and how hypersexualized women are or how individuals are turned into objects,” says Dobter. “There’s a commercial in which they turned a woman’s body into a beer bottle.
“We’re dehumanizing an individual which makes it seem like it’s okay to commit these types of crimes because it’s not really a human,” Dobter continues.
Mavec encourages people who want to help to get involved and donate to agencies which make it their jobs to support survivors of assault.
“Everything that’s in place has been the work of dedicated agencies with small budgets, with coverage being cut,” she reveals. “So it’s important.”
“Be an active bystander,” asserts Dobter. “If you see these types of things you have options too.”
Copyright 2017 The Gayly - 4/9/2017 @ 9:37 a.m. CDT