Addressing recent reports of sexual violence.

by Holly Seymour, Program Director, Center for Women in Transition

 

I can’t keep up: Charlie Rose, Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Donald Trump, Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, Roy Moore, Senator Al Franken and the list keeps growing. The stories are horrific. The shame and blame the victims endured is unimaginable. I predict this list will continue to grow in the coming weeks and months.

Each victim that comes forward, as difficult as it is, helps to shine a light on the path to safety and healing for countless others who suffer in darkness. In that light, we can find hope.

We are witnessing a change in our collective response to sexual harassment and assault. We are slowly and painfully chipping away at the wall of silence that protects perpetrators and prevents victims from speaking out.

The courage of survivors is contagious and we are seeing it everywhere. The #metoo hashtag gained momentum at record speed as victims, survivors, and their supporters showed their solidarity on social media.

Center for Women in Transition has another message that we would like to put out there… #WeAreHere

For forty years, we have been here, offering critical services and support to victims of violence and their loved ones. Our 24-hour helpline, sexual assault nurse examiner program, one-on-one and group therapy services, legal advocacy, and support with everything from finding safe housing to learning how to parent after trauma, are available to anyone in need. All these services are completely confidential and offered at no cost. We are here 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

But we can’t do it alone. We need you here with us. We need the community’s help in making it safe for victims to come forward, to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions, and to create a safer future for our children. Here are some things that you can do to help victims and survivors know that #WeAreHere together:

  1. Believe people when they say they have been sexually harassed or assaulted- whether it happened to them 4 hours ago or 40 years ago.
  2. Challenge the idea that we need multiple people to corroborate a victim’s story to make it believable.
  3. Understand that the intense fear, shame, and blame that victims experience prevents most of them from reporting to the police or telling their loved ones. This is true for both children and adults.
  4. Call people out when they say things like: “Why did she wait so long to come forward?” or “Things were different back then.” Statements like these serve to minimize the severity of sexual misconduct and blame the victims.
  5. Be an active bystander. An active bystander is someone who interferes if they see a situation where someone is at risk of getting hurt.
  6. Understand that sexual harassment and assault are not about being intoxicated or having a mental illness. They are about power and control.
  7. Volunteer or invite someone from CWIT to come talk to your faith community, student group, or service organization so you can learn more about how to make a difference.
  8. If you or someone you care about has been a victim of sexual harassment or assault, give them Center for Women in Transition’s 24 hour helpline number: 1-800-848-5991
  9. Repost this article on social media and use the hashtag: #WeAreHere to let victims and survivors know that you are dedicated to making our community a safe place for everyone.