Together we can help end sexual violence in our communities

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April’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month is a time to refocus on a problem that continues to negatively impact individuals and families nationwide and in our own communities. Over the past several years, our awareness and understanding of sexual assault, harassment and rape have improved. So, what are the next steps in creating safe and thriving communities in which this type of violence no longer occurs?

It will take all of us working together to create the needed change. It begins with individuals, businesses, schools and organizations choosing to take actions that help create a community of respect.

Below are four ways to get started:

Kindness. Treating all people with kindness is fundamental to creating communities in which people do not harm others. Embracing kindness is consciously thinking about having compassion for others; to be mindful that everyone is bearing burdens that may not be visible.

Respect. Practice respect regardless of our differences. Start a conversation, find common ground or learn something about another person who may have a different life experience than you. Our differences are barriers only if we allow them to be.

Believe survivors. If a survivor chooses to speak their truth, you might be the first person they tell. When you respond with compassion and support, survivors are more likely to reach out to others and create a supportive network necessary for healing and justice.

Do the right thing. Hold people you know accountable if their language or actions are harmful or disrespectful to others. By living with integrity, you demonstrate respect for yourself, others and your community.

Join us in taking action to create a community of respect. Together we can help end sexual violence for future generations.

Here are ways we can support survivors if they choose to speak their truth.

Believe. If someone you know shares deeply personal information with you about being assaulted, try saying, “I believe you and I’m here for you. This was not your fault.”

Affirmations. Provide emotional support by making statements such as, “Thank you for your courage and for sharing this with me.”

Listen. Understand your role as a listener. Providing a safe and judgement-free place to talk is a helpful first step in the healing process for survivors.

Empower. Help empower survivors by asking questions such as, “Tell me what you need me to do” or “How can I best help you?”

Resources. Let them know they are not alone and that there are many helpful resources available.

WRCNM’s 24/7 help and information line
1-231-347-0082 or 1-800-275-1995

WRCNM Sexual Assault Services

Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network

Michigan Sexual Assault Hotline

You may be the first person they have told about the assault. How we respond at this crucial moment matters.