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As I sit and write this article/blog tonight I am working on-call as a volunteer in Washtenaw County to support domestic violence and sexual assault survivors who may come forward over the next 15 hours. In Washtenaw county, if a person goes to the hospital and communicates that he or she has been assaulted, the state requires the hospital to call an advocate to support the survivor and the police. Advocates, like myself, support the survivor by going to the hospital, regardless of the time of night, being at the survivor’s side, talking with the survivor about his or her feelings, legal rights, informing the survivor of the process and safety planning. Most importantly an advocate is there to assure the survivor it is not his or her fault and to listen empathetically. No one deserves to be sexually assaulted regardless of the what, when, where or why of his or her situation.
As a support person to someone who has been sexually assaulted, it is important not to ask “why questions.” These types of questions, like, “Why were you there at that hour?” or “Why did you go alone?” only insinuate blame and, instead, this person needs support not your insinuation of blame.
Encourage self-care and professional help so your friend or family member can work through the trauma he or she suffered.
The number, (800) 656-4673 is to the RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline and this organization can provide local contact information where you or your loved one can seek help.
Let’s stand together and strengthen our communities by arming ourselves with the facts of sexual assault; united, we can make the world a safer place to live!