Raising awareness

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By: Megan Graves, Columnist

So it’s April again. If you’re like me, you probably feel pretty conflicted about this month. The sporadic 75-degree days remind you that the world isn’t always grey and cold, but the disappointment of wearing a sundress only to find out the high of the day is 55 degrees is rather heartbreaking.

But along with being known for unreliable weather forecasts and it’s cleansing showers in hopes of May flowers, April is also Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

This month is used to bring attention to how frequently sexual assault occurs around us, and to educate us on how to prevent it. Now, I’ve written a couple of columns that offer specific statistics on this issue.

In this one, however, I’d like to talk about the victims of sexual assault.

When we find out that someone we care for has gone through this trauma, we might not know how to react. I’m going to offer some advice on this, but remember that each person that is a victim of sexual assault is different. The way they need to be cared for is unique and individual to that person.

That being said, the first thing you should do is immediately remind them that the attack was not their fault. Also, that you are in no way angry at them, and that you will help them in whatever way you possibly can.

Most importantly, let them decide how they want to handle it. Many victims of sexual assault don’t go to the police. This is scary, because it may mean that an attacker is left free, but it is understandable in our current society.

When someone reports their assault to the police and presses charges, they must recount and relive their experience over and over to multiple strangers who have been proven time and time again to simply not believe them. They will hear reasons why they are lying, why their assault wasn’t real.

Then, when that’s over with, their attacker may still go free.

This is a giant flaw in our system. We should instantly believe those who come forward about their assault rather than forcing them to prove it to us. If someone is found out to have lied, then they are a heinous person, and they should not be seen as the norm.

If your loved one decides to take action against their attacker, remind them every single day how strong and brave they are. If people start to say they don’t believe them, always assure them that you do.

If your loved one does not take action, do not force them to. I know this is hard. You want to see the person responsible getting what they deserve. But it isn’t your decision. Support what your loved one chooses to do, even if you do not agree.

Some people choose to speak openly about their assault. Some see therapists and join groups where they can speak safely to those who know what they went through. Some choose to move on as though it never happened. There is no right or wrong way to heal from your sexual assault.

Don’t ask those who have been assaulted questions or tell them what to do. Simply give them all of your support, care, and reassurance.

This month, keep those who have been sexually assaulted in your thoughts. Maybe just remind them how strong or beautiful they are, even if they already know.

And if you yourself have been a victim of sexual assault, remember that it does not define who you are. You are not wrong for needing help, and you are not wrong for being okay. You are powerful, you are capable, and of course, you will always be beautiful.

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