Have you ever seen a shooting star and made a magical wish? Me, too. Have you ever tried to catch a snowflake on your tongue? Me, too. Have you ever had to explain what a pepperoni roll is to someone from out of state? Me, too. Have you ever had a conversation about sexual assault?
TIME Magazine just declared the “Silence Breakers” their 2017 Persons of the Year. Bursting out of their silenced and often shamed experiences, these silence breakers shed their fears and shared their stories. They truly are a brave bunch - those who didn’t dilute the details, who refused to continue to be burdened with blame. They stood up and spoke out and, as a result, are changing the world for countless other survivors.
We at Women’s Aid in Crisis (WAIC) are happy that people are having this conversation, are glad this movement has been launched, and are excited to see such a spotlight on sexual violence.
Since we have served victims of sexual assault for over three decades, we know that not all survivors can safely speak out, not everyone can freely stand up to the fear that can come with disclosure, and not everyone has the protection to share their stories with their closest family and friends, let alone the entire world.
If Taylor Swift (with over 85 million Twitter followers, named one of the most powerful women and listed as Fortune’s 2016 top paid celebrity with a net worth of $280 million), was disbelieved and told the sexual harassment was her fault, where does that leave the rest of us?
An African proverb states, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” That’s very wise advice. Currently WAIC is part of a multidisciplinary team that works together to keep our community safe. All of our services are confidential and free. The Sexual Assault Response Team, or ‘SART’ for short, is made up of many members and encompasses a variety of organizations and allied agencies that work together to ensure sexual assault victims get the services and support they need to help heal. Since research shows that, in the past, 994 out of 1,000 rapists walked free (according to the Rape and Incest National Network, RAINN), we each need to play a pivotal part in responding to and preventing sexual violence.
Each of us can learn the facts about sexual violence and challenge myths. No one ‘asks’ to be raped. Everyone should have the right to be safe and respected. Most sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows. In fact, according to a study conducted by Menachem Amir, 71% of rapes are planned in advance, making what the victim was wearing or doing at the time of the assault irrelevant.
We at WAIC are committed to collaborating to end sexual violence, and supporting, standing with, and elevating voices of survivors, because we know that these crimes thrive in secrecy and silence. We will continue to contribute to the Upshur County community in ways that are worthwhile and evolving. We will ensure our services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, like our emergency hotline in Upshur County – 304-473-0070, and we will not be silent about this issue. If it is true that “teamwork divides the task and multiplies the success,” the SART Team, the community at large, and more importantly, the sexual assault survivors who access our services, can move forward together with no fear and no blame. Are you ready for social change? Me, too.