Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2021
By Allison Summers Ajazi, associate director of education and leadership initiatives
Content warning: This post contains information about sexual assault and/or relationship violence which may be triggering to survivors.
Alpha Chi Omega’s national philanthropy is domestic violence awareness. In this philanthropic work, our goal is to prevent sexual assault, promote healthy relationships and raise domestic violence awareness. During April, Alpha Chi Omega members and chapters strive to bring awareness to the impact of sexual assault within their communities. On a national level, Alpha Chi Omega has worked to bring awareness to this issue by becoming RAINN’s first sorority partner; RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) hosts the national sexual assault hotline.
Our work to bring awareness includes survivors of all identities, and the varied identities of survivors is our educational focus this year. According to our national partners at RAINN, every 73 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. While progress is being made to decrease that – the number of assaults has fallen by more than half since 1993 – there is much room to improve. Often, we look to media and are presented with stereotypes of who a survivor is: what they look like, what they act like, what they did wrong. These caricatures couldn’t be further from the truth for most survivors.
Sexual violence affects individuals of all identities; their journey to healing is unique, and they did not do anything to deserve violence. Sexual violence is never their fault.
Sexual violence affects individuals of all identities.
We know that young people are at the highest risk of sexual violence. Research from RAINN shows that women and girls experience sexual violence at high rates – 1 out of 6 – and women ages 18-24 who are college students are three times more likely than women in general to experience sexual violence.
What we don’t often focus our attention on is the impact of sexual violence outside of society’s beliefs of who a survivor is. Survivors come from all backgrounds.
Below are a few examples that paint a picture of the population of survivors in the United States (statistics from RAINN):
- Native Americans are at the greatest risk of sexual violence, twice as likely as all races.
- 21% of TGQN (transgender, queer, nonconforming) college students have been sexually assaulted, compared to 18% of non-TGQN females and 4% of non-TGQN males.
- 1 out of every 10 rape victims is male.
How to Support Someone
Knowing that survivors can be anyone in our own lives, it’s important to know how to help when someone discloses that they’ve been sexually assaulted. It’s not always easy, but listening to their needs is the best way to support a survivor.
- Thank them for telling you. It can be difficult for survivors to share their story. They may feel ashamed, concerned others will not believe them or worried that they are to blame. The best thing you can do is share that you believe them.
- Ask how you can help.
Let the survivor know you are there for them and are willing to support them as they heal from the experience. By letting the survivor choose the next steps, they can feel more in control of themselves.
- Listen without judgement.
Let the survivor know you are willing to listen to their story if they are comfortable sharing it. Remind them there are service providers who can also support them.
- Keep supporting.
Every survivor is different, and their reactions and needs will be different as well. Follow their lead and let them know that their feelings, needs and experiences are valid. By checking in and knowing your resources as a support system, we can end the stigma associated with sexual assault.
Visit RAINN.org for more tips on how to talk to survivors about sexual assault.
If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, it’s not your fault. You are not alone. Help is available 24/7 through the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE or visit the online hotline, y en Español a rainn.org/es.