How To Be An Ally To Survivors of Sexual Violence

The nation watched with bated breath on 09/27/18 as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified in front of the Senate, accusing Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault. Her composure and patience during her testimony juxtaposed his emotional and vague responses. Yet on October 6th, Kavanaugh was sworn into the Supreme Court. It felt like history repeating itself, echoing Anita Hill’s similar case in 1991.

In times like these, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and defeated despite the progress of movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp. However, we can still make a difference by becoming allies to survivors of sexual violence. Make a difference in your own community by educating yourself, showing support for survivors and taking action in your day to day life.

Educate Yourself

In recent years, the #MeToo movement has encouraged many survivors to step forward and share their stories. Pay attention to the stories survivors are coming forward and sharing.

Listen to them, show support and learn the patterns of macroaggressions that perpetuate rape culture in our society.

If you are in a position of privilege, use it! Something as small as retweeting a person’s story and showing your support can make a difference.

Most recently, Time’s Up has been highlighting rape culture in Hollywood. Hollywood is a highly public industry that deserves scrutiny, but that doesn’t mean your own industry does not have its own Weinstein. Through education, people will be more prepared to take action as an ally in your own community.

Support Survivors

Let people know that you are a confidential ear. When someone feels comfortable enough to forward and share their story with you, keep the focus of the conversation on them. Each survivor will have their own ways of coping, so refrain from posing scrutinizing or invasive questions.

Respect the survivors boundaries without giving advice, explanations and safety tips. Advocate and survivor of sexual assault, Jasbina Masir, cautions us what NOT to tell a survivor:

“they are handling their assault in the wrong way; that is absolutely not up to you.”

Avoid playing the devil’s advocate or victim-blaming as this further normalizes rape culture.

Take Action

Once you have educated yourself, you are ready to take action and make a change in your community. For too long, sexual assault has been considered a ‘women’s issue’ but assault affects all genders. To create change, we must all be active in changing the culture.

If it is safe for you to point out microaggressions, do so. Don’t laugh at a friend’s rape joke, call them out for it! Take opportunities to educate your friends and colleagues to create a safe environment for everyone. Change is possible.

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If you or a loved one needs support, please contact the RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline (1-800-656-HOPE) for the confidential aid of a trained staff member.

By: Adrienne Schoenfeld