A Voice for the Innocent gives sexual assault victims a safe place to tell their stories
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) in the United States. The goal of SAAM is to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate our communities about ways we can to prevent it. With the prevalence of sexual assault and abuse in our country, that education and outreach is not only imperative, it could help save lives.
One in every five women and one in 71 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. According to a study conducted by the National Victim Center, 1.3 women (age 18 and over) in the United States are forcibly raped each minute. Every minute in this country someone is violently raped and will be left to suffer the consequences of someone else’s actions for the rest of their lives. The results can be devastating but one organization is attempting to reach victims and give them a place for their voices to be heard.
The group A Voice for the Innocent is a 100 percent volunteer organization that offers support for victims of rape and sexual assault. The group allows victims to share their stories anonymously, read other stories of abuse, and get connected to abuse centers, counselors, education material and hotlines if needed. Their goal is for people “to anonymously share stories of sexual abuse and rape with a group of people who will offer support, empathy, and share their own experiences in return.”
In a series of powerful videos posted to their Facebook page, victims share their stories of being sexually assaulted and the profound impact it’s had on their lives. “People will show you support if your purse is stolen, but you tell them that you got raped or were assaulted in some manner… sexually. It’s a question of ‘What did you do?'” Steven says in his video.
The numbers don’t lie. According to the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence, less than 30 percent of sexual assault cases are reported to authorities. Many feel if there aren’t bystanders or witnesses to the event, no one will believe them. Many victims know their attackers and fear retaliation. Even if their assaulter is brought to trial, the results in many cases can be as offensive as the crime itself.
It is not uncommon for rape victims to suffer from depression and post-traumatic stress. Around 33 percent of rape victims have suicidal thoughts; thirteen percent of victims will attempt suicide at some point in their lives. Shame, disbelief and anger can make it difficult for victims to speak up and get the help they so desperately need.
For sexual assault survivors, the task of telling another person about the attack can be a difficult challenge. Survivors fear – with good reason – that they won’t be heard, believed or worse, they will be blamed for the attack themselves. As a result, sexual assault has the lowest reporting rate of any violent crime.
We need to do more in this country to help prevent these crimes from occurring. At the very bare minimum when they do, we need to provide victims with safe places like A Voice for the Innocent to tell their stories without fear of being blamed for the assault in the first place.