The following blog post discusses the topic of sexual violence and harassment.
Dozens of women have recently come forward with sexual harassment and assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein, a movie mogul and producer. While it’s unclear if any formal criminal charges will be filed as a result, Weinstein has so far lost his job at The Weinstein Company and was expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
The stories being shared in the wake of these allegations reignite an international conversation about sexual violence, particularly the prevalence of violence against women. Experiences of sexual violence or harassment are extremely difficult to talk about. Survivors often feel pressure to remain silent about what happened. Trauma, fear of not being believed, being shamed/blamed, fear of retaliation or further violence, and other potential consequences keep many from telling someone or reporting crimes. Many people don’t realize or perhaps don’t believe that this sort of harassment and abuse is widespread and unfortunately a fairly universal experience for women in particular.
Tonight, the hashtag #MeToo went viral, bringing attention and opening eyes to just how prevalent these experiences are. It began with a tweet by actor Alyssa Milano, who resurrected a movement originally started years ago by an activist named Tarana Burke.
While it originated on Twitter, the posts and hashtag quickly spread to other social media platforms like Facebook.
So far, several thousand people are posting, sometimes simply sharing the hashtag as a way to acknowledge their experience without sharing any details. Others are sharing their stories. It’s too soon to know how much of an impact these stories might have on the broader conversation about sexual violence, including how we can eliminate it. But it’s clear that people are feeling safer discussing it online when surrounded by others telling their stories. Perhaps this solidarity, in such large numbers, can bring about positive change.
In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, we’d like to share a recent story featured on Cleveland’s local CBS affiliate, highlighting the fantastic work of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, including their new chat and text program with iCarol. We were honored to welcome this organization into the iCarol family a few months ago and are so proud of the positive impact they are having, the dedication of their volunteers and staff, not to mention the strength and bravery of the survivors who they are helping.
CRCC promotes a vision of a community free from sexual violence. Their programs lend support and resources to survivors of rape and sexual abuse, helping them throughout their healing process, while also promoting prevention and social change necessary to abolish sexual violence. You can find out more about their many wonderful programs and services on their website.
As CRCC’s website discusses, it wasn’t all that long ago that most survivors kept silent due to the shame and also lack of societal understanding around rape and sexual abuse. In some ways things have improved for survivors in that there are now more resources available and more understanding people ready to hear and accept stories of sexual violence without judgment or blame placed on the survivor.
Still, survivors experience a myriad of emotions resulting from the trauma of sexual violence, and it can be extremely difficult to discuss. It’s estimated that even today, more than 2/3 of sexual assaults are never reported. The vast majority of sexual assaults also occur between two parties who know one another, and not between strangers. This further complicates an already painful experience, especially if the rapist was someone the survivor liked or trusted.
CRCC is a force behind breaking the silence by offering channels that meet the survivor where they are via outlets that can feel safer than discussing it over the phone. Like so many of our helpline clients have experienced, these silent forms of emotional support available through live chat and texting provide an anonymity that helps people feel less exposed and vulnerable, and can become a first step to recovery.
In the short time since their chat and text program launched, CRCC has been busy with traffic from their local community, while also receiving some messages from as far away as California and Nevada. Their experience of immediately receiving a healthy volume of texts stems from a great marketing plan, but also the fact that they text-enabled their existing helpline number – a number that had been known to their community for more than 40 years. We’ve often heard from our text-enabling users that texts will begin to flow in before much advertising or marketing is even done. We believe that this is because the pervasiveness of texting in our culture leads many people to assume these helpline numbers accept both chats and texts, and thus you could already be receiving texts to your helpline that you’re not even aware of.
We hope you’ll join us in congratulating the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center on this latest success and wish them well as they serve survivors of sexual violence. Check out the news story below!
Domestic Violence has been a much-discussed topic in the media these past few months, due in large part to NFL star Ray Rice and other notable professional athletes being involved in incidents of domestic violence. The fact that some famous athletes are perpetrators of domestic violence shouldn’t surprise us; the numbers tell us that domestic violence, particularly violence against women, is unfortunately common all over the world and effects people of all professions, socioeconomic statuses, races, sexual orientations, and genders.
The attention these stories receive brings the issue out into the light and educates the masses on the facts and figures, but it also brings out the victim blaming and shaming. People who aren’t familiar with the insidious nature of domestic violence are quick to simplify a situation by saying, “Why doesn’t she just leave?” Hashtag campaigns such as #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft have been helpful in explaining that the answer to that question is far from simple.
We know that domestic violence touches millions of people every day who aren’t famous. Their stories are sometimes kept secret from friends and loved ones, and they certainly don’t make headlines, except perhaps when they result in a homicide. The World Health Organization states that up to 38% of murders worldwide are committed by the intimate partner of the victim.
According to the US Justice Department, in the mid 1990’s the domestic violence rate started to drop, but it’s hard to tell whether this was due to the overall drop in violent crime, a result of the Violence Against Women Act, or other factors. But the numbers are still far too high, estimated at around 1,000 incidents each day in the United States. And even though the need for shelter, legal support, counseling, and other services is great, funding for programs is insufficient and these services are struggling to meet the demand.
Eventually this topic will fade from the public’s consciousness so it’s important that we all keep talking about it and raise awareness and understanding of the issue. Advocate for prevention programs that help teach young people about healthy relationships, which experts say is key in reducing domestic violence since many men and women who are in such relationships as adults were first assaulted as adolescents. Support your local domestic violence helpline or shelter so that they can continue doing great work and meeting the needs of your community.
Infographic courtesy of the CDC and the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence survey
There are a lot of conversations that parents dread having with their kids, but conversations about sex are notoriously difficult. And while conversations about healthy relationships should go hand in hand with “the talk,” that’s a step that many parents miss. In fact, three out of four parents haven’t talked to their kids about domestic violence, and 81% of parents believe that teen dating violence isn’t an issue, or they admit they don’t know if it’s an issue.
But it is a very important issue. One in three teens will experience some form of abuse from someone they date, including physical, sexual or verbal abuse. About one in five women and almost one in seven men who experience rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner first experience some sort of partner violence as a teen or adolescent. As future generations grow up and start dating, it’s important that they have the proper education and understanding as they enter into relationships – and know how to identify and avoid ones that are unhealthy or dangerous.
February is Teen Dating Violence month, and February 4th is ‘It’s Time to Talk’ Day, a day when we encourage parents, advocates, mentors, and other adults to talk to their teens about dating violence. Helplines are trusted sources of information for kids and teens, and so we encourage you to check out these resources and share them as needed.
It’s Time to Talk Day Conversation Guide and Talk-a-thon Guide
Dating Violence Warning Signs
Dating Violence 101
Do you have more resources to add? Share them with everyone by leaving a comment below!