KATANA Safety spotlights April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) and recognizes the importance of bringing awareness to sexual violence.  According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men will be the victim of rape at some point in their lives and 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college. For generations, sexual assault has not been discussed openly in the public. Survivors have lived in silence due to fear of retribution and because not enough people fully understand sexual assault. As a therapist and advocate, I have heard the phrase “you’re the first person I’ve ever told about this” all too often.  Survivors have suffered by themselves in silence, which also feeds the cycle of sexual violence. However, there is so much hope as many survivors feel more empowered to share their stories after the #MeToo movement fueled the call to action.

What can you do to help a loved one who has experienced sexual violence?

  1. LISTEN – It’s important to listen to their story with compassion and understanding.  You don’t have to be an expert, but knowing that they have someone who will listen without judging is an important step for a survivor to heal.
  2. DON’T VICTIM BLAME – Many survivors say that the first time they shared their story, they were met with people who didn’t believe them.  “Well, were you drunk?” “What were you wearing?” “Did you fight back?” are some of the phrases that loved ones ask without realizing they can be detrimental.  It’s important to realize that no matter what a person was wearing, how much they were drinking, or if they fought back or not, the only person responsible for a sexual assault is the perpetrator.  
  3. BE PATIENT – Healing from sexual trauma can be a lifelong process and will look differently for every person. Some survivors will cry and be anxious while others will laugh and pretend that nothing happened. Allow the survivor to process and heal at their own pace.

During Sexual Assault Awareness month, do your part to shine a light on the epidemic of sexual violence.  Wear teal to support awareness, talked to loved ones about the statistics, and reach out to someone if you have experienced sexual violence.