With more powerful men being exposed as alleged sexual abusers and the watershed #MeToo movement sparking a national dialogue on sexual assault, 2017 is shaping up to be the year sexual misconduct was finally taken seriously. While many people are glad that powerful men are finally being held accountable for their actions, it’s still important to remember that the work is far from over and there are still lots of powerful ways to support sexual assault survivors in 2018.
Right now, it’s especially crucial that people take the activism offline and get involved in their communities to help put an end to sexual violence. Someone is assaulted every 98 seconds and one in five women will be raped in her lifetime. And this number is actually believed to be conservative because sexual assault is the most underreported crime, according to data from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC).
Whether it’s donating to a local woman’s shelter, making sure that #MeToo doesn’t fizzle out or remain just an “online” movement, or by insuring that survivors feel that they are being heard when they decide to come forward, there are plenty of ways you can help survivors in the new year.
Believe Victims Who Come Forward
This sounds like a no-brainer but simply listening to and supporting a sexual assault victim, affirming that you believe them when they come forward, and paying attention to the language that you use makes a world of difference. Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network or RAINN suggests using phrases including “I’m sorry,” “This is not your fault,” and “You are not alone” when it comes to responding to a survivor of assault.
Victims may feel ashamed when they come forward with their stories and it’s important that they feel heard. The best thing you can do is believe them and make sure they know that you support them.
Donate To Women’s Shelters & Organizations
Women’s shelters serve as safe housing for women who are trying to escape abusive partners. About 20 people are physically abused by an intimate partner in the U.S. every minute, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV).
You can easily donate to local shelters in your area using Domestic Shelter’s online database, which also lets you contribute to women’s wish lists of items and resources they need.
Bring A Call To Men To Your Community
Another way to help out victims is to address issues of toxic masculinity and sexual consent head-on. A Call To Men is a violence prevention organization that educates men around the world and helps to prevent sexual assault and violence against women. It’s trained everyone from NBA players to the U.S. Military.
It’s easy to help out by going to its website and joining an event in your area, encouraging friends and family to attend, or organizing an event in your own community.
Lobby Your Representatives
Contact local representatives and make sure they know that citizens want legislation that will provide support to survivors, improve the criminal justice system, and help prevent further violence. RAINN Action Center has pre-written letters and tweets that you can send to Congress members about sexual assault prevention and support.
Donate Your Cell Phone
Survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault need ways to call the police and ask for help, especially in the case when a partner is violent. Low-income survivors may not be able to afford a cell phone or have had theirs disconnected. You can donate a cell phone by disconnecting the phone service, erasing the data, removing the SIM card, and dropping it off in a HopeLine bin at any nearby Verizon store. Visit HopeLine’s website for more information on how to help.
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