Guest Columnist

Embrace your voice during Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Sexual assault survivors along with their supporters at the #MeToo Survivors March against sexual abuse Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017 in Los Angeles, Calif.  (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Sexual assault survivors along with their supporters at the #MeToo Survivors March against sexual abuse Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017 in Los Angeles, Calif. (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Since 2001, April has been designated Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This year, the theme is “Embrace Your Voice.”

It seems fitting, given the national conversation happening around sexual assault. Women and men everywhere, from Hollywood to the boardroom to the classroom, are using their voice and no longer staying silent about their experiences. It’s sparked a conversation that has needed to happen for a long time, and that will hopefully lead to action.

While it’s amazing that survivors are coming forward and using their voice, it’s also critical that everyone else finds the right way to use their voice to support this movement. It could be simply saying, “I believe you,” to a victim of sexual assault. It could be using whatever platform you may have in your organization or community to push for changes in policies that make it harder for sexual assault to happen and easier for survivors to seek justice. Or it could be stepping in to say something when you witness abuse or assault happening.

Consider these statistics from RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network):

• Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted.

• 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.

• 1 out of every 10 rape victims are male.

• A majority of victims are under 30 years old.

We all have a responsibility to embrace our voices to see the change that we hope for in our community. It’s easy to think, “that doesn’t happen in our community, that just happens in big cities,” but the statistics don’t lie.

Riverview Center serves victims of sexual assault in 16 counties across Iowa and Illinois. We focus on providing compassionate care when those individuals need it most. In the Linn County region alone, Riverview Center provided sexual assault therapy or advocacy services to 185 individuals last year.

I hope we can live in a world one day where no one has to say, “Me Too,” but until then, it’s time for everyone to embrace their voice to end sexual assault.

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Visit our website to find out ways you can get involved.

• Kiandra Benson is a sexual assault victim advocate for marginalized populations at Riverview Center.

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