Sometimes the simplest words are the most impactful. Words like, “I believe you.” “I’m sorry this happened.” “How can I help?” Yet too often when a sexual assault victim discloses, they are doubted or made …
Start by Believing
Sometimes the simplest words are the most impactful.
Words like, “I believe you.” “I’m sorry this happened.” “How can I help?”
Yet too often when a sexual assault victim discloses, they are doubted or made to believe somehow, they were at fault for what took place.
How you respond when a loved one or someone you know trusts you enough to share, can make all the difference in how the trauma will define them. I realize that is a heavy burden, yet think about the burden that the victim has kept deep inside, contemplating whether or not they will be believed.
Most victims seek help from family and friends – estimates range from 58 to 94 percent, according to End Violence Against Women International.
Once someone tells you they were raped, your role is to be a support for them and to guide them to professionals who can start the victim on their healing journey.
It is not your role to determine if the allegation is true or false. In fact, the prevalence of false reporting for sexual assault crimes is low – between two and 10 percent according to a 10-year study conducted by the National Sexual Violence Research Center.
On their own, few rape victims report to law enforcement – it is estimated only five to 20 percent, according to End Violence Against Women International, and less than half seek medical care or obtain a medical forensic exam.
It is critically important that a victim who has been sexually assaulted, seeks medical treatment to ensure that there has been no sexually transmitted diseases or internal injuries resulting from the assault.
In Indiana there are provisions for a victim who wants to have a medical forensic exam even if they are not ready to report to law enforcement. The Jane Doe report allows a victim to have a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner complete a rape kit and anonymously submit that kit to law enforcement. The victim then has up to a year to report to law enforcement and, if they know, report who the alleged abuser was.
While, ideally, a victim names their perpetrator immediately, so law enforcement has the complete picture and potential crime scene, it is the victim’s well-being that is of utmost concern.
Which is why locally, there are a group of professionals called the Grant County Sexual Assault Response Team who meet monthly to focus on providing a competent, coordinated and compassionate community response to sexual assault where best practices are discussed.
This April, Hands of Hope and the Grant County SART is focusing on a campaign called “Start By Believing” which focuses on the importance of believing when someone discloses so that the person’s trauma is lessoned.
As part of the campaign there is a personal pledge that individuals can take. Anyone interested in taking the pledge can go to: https://startbybelieving.org/home/ where you can print off the pledge placard.
My goal would be for every resident in Grant County to take the pledge this April, posting a picture of themselves with the pledge placard on social media will send the most powerful message to a victim that can be said – we believe you, you are not alone and I will be there with you as you begin your journey of healing. All are welcome to share their photos with Hands of Hope’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/INHandsofHope/