Editor’s note: this column contains discussions of sexual assault
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). It is a topic which hits home for me, and is a really important topic to talk about. As one of the ambassadors at the Center of Advocacy, Response and Education (CARE) and a survivor myself, it is important for me to talk about it and raise awareness around campus. When I came out to my conservative parents about the sexual abuse I had gone through, they were supportive at first but then started blaming me for the abuse.
This experience made me realize how easily one can be a victim of sexual violence and also be victim blamed for it — about 39% of the people are abused by an acquaintance rather than a stranger. Why is it important for us to open up a conversation on sexual assault? It is so we can break the stigma and open the floor for people who cannot come out and talk about it.
The entire reason why we have this month is to make sure that we prevent sexual assault and work to eventually end it. In the 1970s, women in London grouped up and started talking about it which lead to rallies and protests in the States which also included conversations about men being sexually assaulted. In the late 1980s, The National Coalition Against Sexual Assault declared a week in April as National Sexual Assault Awareness Week. Finally in 2001, the United States observed April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month nationwide.
Being a college student can be hard enough but to feel unsafe all the time is much harder. Especially after the FIJI incident earlier this year, there is a lot of fear on campus. Even though our campus feels unsafe, our chancellor and student leaders are working hard to make sure that we can make it as safe as we can.
Sexual abuse is not something one “asks” for and never will be. About 43.6% of American women and 24.8% of American men experience some form of sexual assault in their life time. According to a research brief by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center about 64% of the respondents had reported that they were sexually abused. Every 68 seconds, an individual is sexually assaulted in this country.
Victim blaming is an act of disrespecting and dismissing someone against whom a violent act has happened. This violent act varies from physical assault to sexual assault to mental abuse. It is never okay to blame the victim of the crime that is done to them.
Each survivor reacts differently to sexual violence. These reactions vary from emotional to psychological to physical. They could suffer from mental health illnesses like PTSD, anxiety and depression. Sexual assault does not only affect the victim or survivor, but also the people around them who love and care for them.
If you are someone who wants to support a victim and is wondering how to help them, then I would say if someone discloses to you about an abuse, listen to them and be there for them. If it is a recent event, see if they are comfortable enough to reach out to the police and report it because that could help other survivors to come out.
If you are a survivor, talk to your loved ones who would believe and help you in whatever way you need. There are so many resources out there who can help you. You are not alone and you do not have to be alone. You deserve all the help you can get.
Malvika Vijju is a junior women’s and gender studies major. Reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On campus resources:
Center for Advocacy, Response, and Education
Counseling and Psychological Services
Off campus resources:
Voices of Hope
Crisis Line: 402.476.2110
Office line: 402.475.7273
Crisis Line: 402.437.9302