By Toni Lawrimore
For the past two years of my life I’ve been given the privilege of working with survivors of sexual violence and working to prevent these crimes as a rape crisis advocate. While doing this, I not only had my eyes opened to the scope of the issue of sexual violence, but to ways that every person can step up and fight this pervasive, painful issue. In order to be able to fight it and prevent this heinous crime, we need to be able to first engage in an honest conversation about what it looks like and what we can do in the face some of the most widespread and unreported wrongdoing in the world.
How often does this happen?
One out of every six women has experienced a completed or attempted rape in their lifetime in the United States. One out of four women by the time they graduate college have experienced rape or attempted rape (RAINN, 2013). On a global scale, one fifth of the women of the world have experienced rape or attempted rape at this very moment (United Nations Resources for Speakers, 2014). These numbers are unfortunately underestimates. Only around 60% of all rapes are reported to police, meaning that these numbers, while already staggering and heartbreaking, do not even cover the vast scope of how many people have experienced sexual violence in their lifetimes.
So what do we do in the face of this epidemic?
Talk about it
Don’t be afraid to engage in conversation with people about this issue. Rape is happening to people every day. Therefore, it is an issue that needs to be addressed in an open dialogue with compassion and weight. Sexual violence is an issue that is painful and leaves scars, we will not be able to step in and fight this crime if we can’t even talk about it without flinching.
The fear of a name increases fear of a thing itself.”
Let’s not give the evil of this world any more power than it already thinks it has. By engaging in an open dialogue about painful, hard issues, we can raise awareness and make ourselves safe places for others who have experienced rape to get help.
Be a safe place.
In my work as a victim’s advocate I heard this heartbreaking phrase all too often: “I didn’t think anyone would believe me” or “I was scared of what ____ would think if I told them this happened.” Sexual violence is traumatic, frightening, and can be alienating. We need more people in the world who are “safe people.” We can become safe people by not shying away from hard topics or painful confessions. By not shying away from the heartache of the world, we can begin to shift social norms and restructure how people see us and the world around them. I know that it sounds hokey, but this is how revolutions happen. All it takes is a small group of devoted people to begin restructuring our language and how we view social issues. My hope is that eventually, survivors of sexual assault will feel safe in all arenas of their lives. While that is a dream at this point, we can start to make it happen by being compassionate and inviting toward the people in our lives.
Be an accountable bystander
Being an accountable bystander means essentially that if we see something “sketchy” going on, we say something. We take care of one another and treat other people as human beings with worth and dignity. If we keep our eyes open to potentially dangerous situations, we can step in before something happens. Furthermore, as people feel empowered to become accountable bystanders, it seems like this activity is contagious. Positive, accountable behavior in turn empowers others to make positive changes, as well.
While things on this earth can be dark and painful, we know that there is a God who cares for His people and hears our cries. Jesus came to redeem sinners like me; He came to make the hurts of this world right. So please, pray that sexual violence would end. Our God is able.
Thank you for being willing to engage in this discussion with me. Sexual violence is not comfortable, nor is it a fun or light topic. However, it is vital that we raise awareness and fight this issue.
For more information, you can check out the sources I sited or a few of these extra websites below or email me at email@example.com
Rape, Incest, and Abuse National Network: http://www.rainn.org
United Nations Resources for Speakers on Global Issues: http://www.un.org/en/globalissues/briefingpapers/endviol/
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center: http://www.nsvrc.org
The National Hotline:
Local South Carolina Hotlines:
803-771-RAPE (7273) (Richland/Lexington)
1-800-491-RAPE (7273) (Newberry/Sumter)
University of South Carolina Hotline:
Call 803-777-8248 between the hours of 8-5 Monday-Friday.
On the weekends, dial 803-777-4215 and ask for an SAVIP (Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention & Prevention) advocate