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For the past week now, I have been training with MOCSA to become a volunteer assisting victims of sexual violence. MOCSA, Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault, is an organization which serves individuals who suffered from any form of sexual violence. Their mission is to lessen the ill effects of sexual assault and abuse through prevention, education, treatment, intervention, and advocacy. While in training, I learned many ways to support women and men, but more particularly women who have been raped. My role as a victim advocate ultimately is to be there for the victim through their difficult experience, and to address an issue that many victims resort to which is self-blaming. As a victim advocate and a survivor of sexual assault, I strongly believe no fault should be on the victim for being sexually violated.
My group had the opportunity to listen to three sexual assault survivors who had similar, yet unique stories. We even had one survivor tell her story for the first time. Each story was very heartfelt, and gave me more reason to help bring more awareness to this issue.
One woman survivor mentioned that her immediate family knew what was happening to her by her stepfather, but remained silent suggesting that “this situation should not be discussed and that we should continue with life—like nothing ever happened”. She also voiced that she told her pastor, and her friend’s mother, but still nothing was ever done to her stepfather. In fact, she informed the group that he is still alive, and sadly, is still married to her mother. This particular woman survivor was sexually victimized beginning at the age of five until 15 because she stated that at that age, she stopped it and couldn’t take it any longer. She was 47 years old when she spoke up about her situation because of a MOCSA luncheon she had attended just to “fill the table”. Her victimization occurred well over 35 years ago, but if you just think about it, women and men are going through what she experienced a long time ago right now.
In case many don’t know, most victims who are sexually assaulted know or have encountered their perpetrators. According to some statistics, approximately 90% of victims know the person who sexually assaulted them. Of the survivors on the panel, two were sexually assaulted by their stepfathers, and the other survivor was assaulted by a stranger. Stranger assaults do occur but are not as common as assaults by perpetrators the victim knows.
This is what struck a nerve and made me realize too many victims’ stories are not getting told. Silence is bestowed upon the victim to not even mention they were sexually violated. According to a news article, one of four female college students are sexually assaulted at some point, and one of seven women has been the victim of a serious or physical assault. Although sexual assaults are very prevalent, sadly only one in ten women reported their stories to the police. Many women in the news article indicated they did not report because of feelings of embarrassment or self-blaming. Other reasons were they did not want to get their perpetrators in trouble, or that they were afraid that no one would believe what they had to say.
Another article on male survivors indicated that roughly 10-20 percent of all men will be sexually violated, but the odds of men reporting their sexual violence is slim to none. Again, this underreporting is the result of feeling guilty, fear of being ignored, laughed at, appearing to be weak, or fear of others questioning their sexuality.
There needs to be more awareness regarding sexual assault in our society. First, people need to stop remaining silent when they discover someone they know, whether it is a daughter, son, cousin or any other close individual, has been sexually assaulted. Rather than a victim feeling helpless and believing something is wrong with them, they should have the support of others to reassure the victim they are safe by acknowledging that 1) you are safe, 2) it is not your fault, 3) I am here for you, 4) we are going to fight together so that he or she will never harm you are anyone else, and 5) it will be difficult, but your road to recovery is starting, and you are very brave for coming forth with your experience.
There are people who don’t believe sexual assault victims. Many will know someone that has been sexually assaulted, but “brush” their situation under the rug as if nothing ever occurred. Well I want to be the first, but not the last person to say that it is time to speak up. We can’t remain silent any longer.
If you or anyone you know is a victim of sexual assault contact MOSCA’s 24-Hour Crisis Line at (816) 531-0233, or you can also contact Michelle Kroner, who is the Victim Services Adjudication Advisor through the Women’s Center Violence Prevention and Response Project at (816) 235-1652.