April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month
By Alison C., Survivor and Alexandra House Volunteer
1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.
1 out of every 33 American men has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in his lifetime.
3 out of 4 rapes are committed by someone known to the victim.
Statistics are just numbers to many. The impersonal nature of them makes them easy to push past without ingesting the meaning. I always pushed past them too. The reality of it never seemed to touch me directly. It was just a statistic.
I wasn’t prepared at all when I became the “1” in 1 out of 6. I self-blamed because I couldn’t believe I had put myself in that situation. I spun out of control because of the sense that I wasn’t in control of what happened to me. I was sad and upset and felt completely alone. The people I told didn’t want to be part of the drama because they knew the perpetrator. They didn’t come out and say I was lying but the action of staying neutral seemed like an endorsement of disbelief. The police needed to be neutral also. Their questions seemed accusatory too even though I don’t think they were meant to be. Less directly, the messages from society that women make these things up or that we asked for it suddenly jumped off the page and screamed from seemingly every mouth on the street. Next, the self-doubt came into play. Had it been that bad? Did I exaggerate? Had I asked for it somehow? His wife was my good friend. Had I betrayed her somehow? The whole experience was simultaneously devastating, maddening, and isolating.
Thankfully, I had Alexandra House to turn to. An advocate came to the hospital for my sexual assault examination. That process is as an invasive procedure as I have ever experienced so having someone there just to talk to and distract me through the mechanics of the process was critical. Later, I attended a support group for sexual assault survivors. We could talk about anything we needed to talk about in there. No one put pressure on me to say or do anything. I found comfort in others understanding what I was going through and derived a sense of value from being able to offer support to others. Alexandra House provided me with a safe space to process a wide array of emotions away from my regular life which therefore allowed me to function in my regular life.
The moral of this story is that it can happen to anyone at any age. Do not let the impersonal nature of statistics distract you from the very personal nature of sexual assault. Chances are this topic will touch your life at some point. Whether you are the victim, or you know the victim, please remember to be kind and gentle. Believe them. Find them support. Speak out against rape culture. Remember that no one is to blame except the rapist. And if you don’t feel comfortable voicing all of that, please support the agencies that do. This work is very important to many more than you realize.
Please consider making a gift to ensure Alexandra House can respond to victims of sexual assault. There has never been a more impactful time to give because right now, donations up to $300 are tax-deductible in accordance with the CARES Act.