April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. I personally know many people who have suffered such abuse and I have done a lot of work with survivors of sexual violence as a social worker. I wrote the song “Tears Fall” (available here) to encourage those who have suffered any abuse at the hands of another.
To help with awareness this month, I thought I’d share an excerpt from my book, Surviving Service: Effective Response to God’s Call for Justice. (Physical copy or pdf available here, and online in all your favorite book/e-book stores.)
Along with researching what works in improving situations, it’s imperative that you keep learning all you can about the population you want to help. I have heard stories of well-intentioned people messing things up when they were just trying to help.
Sexual Violence: I’ve heard countless stories from sexual assault survivors who had people suggest what they think the survivor could have done to avoid the assault, or to avoid a future assault. Rather than being helpful to the survivor, the survivor starts to think she was to blame, instead of the actual perpetrator of the assault. In reality, most sexual assaults are pre-planned (often by people they know and even trust), and the perpetrator gets the survivor in the most vulnerable circumstance. By then, it’s too late to do anything other than what’s necessary to survive the encounter (fighting back, trying to escape, submitting, etc.).
Domestic Violence: In my educational workshops on dating and domestic violence, I noticed many people think it is best to encourage a victim to leave the situation and relationship right away. In reality, domestic violence victims are most at risk of being seriously injured or murdered by the perpetrator (violent person) right when, or soon after, they leave. It is usually better to remain calm and plan the escape. Help the victim make a safety plan for leaving: When is the best time to leave? Where will she (and the kids) go? How will she safely move her belongings? How will she avoid the perpetrator? What should she do if the perpetrator shows up somewhere? Does she need legal assistance or financial resources to get through this? Who can help support her? Be sure to employ community support and resources. She will then be prepared to leave as soon as it appears safest to do so.
Get involved here: www.nsvrc.org/saam/