One in three.
That’s how many women in Utah will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime, according to the Utah Department of Health.
This means that if you have three sisters, three daughters, or three granddaughters, one of them will face sexual violence at some point.
Women aren’t the only victims. 1in6.org reports that 1 in 6 men have been sexually abused or assaulted, whether in childhood or as adults.
Since many cases go unreported, the actual numbers may be higher.
If these statistics bother you, they should.
As hard as it may be to believe, sexual assault is a very real and pervasive problem even here in Utah.
You can tell yourself “it won’t happen to me” or “it won’t happen to my daughter,” but there’s a better solution. Every member of the community needs to step up to help reduce (and eventually end) these assaults.
Not all victims are women, and not all perpetrators are men. But if men (and the rest of the community) make a concerted effort to do the following four things, it can drastically reduce sexual violence in Utah.
Identify and stop victim shaming
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), only 230 out of every 1,000 cases of sexual assault get reported. This means 75% of victims never speak up.
It takes an incredible amount of courage to report something as personal as sexual assault. Oftentimes, the perpetrator is a close friend or family member, which makes reporting the incident more difficult. If it’s a boss or someone in power, the victim may fear retaliation.
In many cases, victims are afraid to speak up because they feel shame or fear.
That’s why an absolutely critical step for reducing sexual assaults is to eliminate victim shaming. Here are some examples from Verywell Mind of what you should not say to victims:
- “You had to know what was going to happen if you went up to his apartment.”
- “You shouldn’t have been drinking.”
- “You must have sent mixed messages.”
- “Was your door even locked?”
- “What were you wearing?”
- “How hard did you try to stop it?”
- “Why didn’t you come forward sooner?”
These types of responses are the very reason why many victims don’t speak up.
Instead, Utah State University has some suggestions for how you can help end victim silence:
- Make sure victims can be heard.
- Let survivors know what happened to them is not their fault.
- Confront victim-blaming when you hear it.
- Do not let perpetrators blame their victim, alcohol or drugs for their behavior.
- Understand how your own implicit bias about gender or what you think the “perfect victim” looks like affect the way you interpret a story about sexual assault or rape.
Talk about sexual assault more openly
While it may not be your preferred topic of conversation, it’s important to talk about sexual assault more openly and more frequently. Doing so makes the topic less taboo, which empowers victims to speak up.
This is particularly important for men who want to be allies for women at home, in the workplace, or in the community.
The USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work suggests men should “discuss what kinds of speech and behaviors are acceptable versus unacceptable, and [not] be afraid to challenge assumptions that perpetuate a hostile or dangerous environment for women.”
These conversations may be difficult, but they can break down harmful behaviors that could potentially lead to assault.
Determine and teach what realistic consent looks like
As a community, Utahns can do better to educate youth (and adults) about realistic consent. Whether or not this happens in public school systems, children need to learn how to protect themselves and others from an early age.
(RAINN provides a good starting point for better understanding and teaching about consent.)
Participate in Sexual Abuse Awareness Month
April is Sexual Abuse Awareness Month, which makes it the perfect time to educate yourself about sexual abuse.
Throughout the month, Safe Harbor Crisis Center will be hosting a variety of events geared toward raising awareness of sexual abuse. These events include a documentary screening, an art show, and the first annual Sexual Assault Conference.
Visit the Safe Harbor event calendar for more details.
How to get help if you’ve been a victim of sexual abuse
It can be scary to seek help if you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse. However, you should know that help is always available for those impacted by domestic abuse, sexual assault, stalking, or dating violence.
Call the free Safe Harbor 24-hour support line at 801-444-9161 and someone at the other end will be ready to listen and provide help.
Safe Harbor Crisis Center is a nonprofit organization that provides shelter, supportive services, and advocacy to survivors in Davis County. They also provide education, awareness, and resources to the community. They’re proud to announce the building of their new facility in Layton, which will be coming soon. For more information about this new facility, or any events that you can participate in to help prevent sexual violence, visit their website.
Learn more about Safe Harbor’s services—including what you can do to help victims of sexual abuse—by visiting safeharborhope.org.