Often times when a person hears about sexual assault they immediately assume three things. First, they assume the assault occurred between a man and a woman. Second, they assume that the man was the perpetrator and the woman was the victim. Third, people also will assume, that all parties involved were heterosexual. This is not always true. In fact, sexual assault in the LGBT community is incredibly high. It is important to note that when assaults occur against members of the LGBT community the perpetrator is often heterosexual. For women in the LGBT community, the sexual assault is much more prevalent than for women outside of the community. 1 in 8 lesbians and 1 in 2 bisexual women have been raped in their lifetime. The same is true for men in the LGBT community versus those outside. 1 in 4 gay men have experienced domestic violence. Half of transgender individuals have experienced sexual violence. These numbers are outrageously high and what’s worse is that many members of the LGBT community who have been assaulted either do not report or when they seek help, they are turned away. Twenty-nine percent of transgender individuals were turned away when they sought help at homeless shelters.
It is important to recognize this community as high risk and underserved so we can hope to fix the problem. Recently, the Violence Against Women Act was reauthorized and included provisions to provide more resources to members of the LGBT community. This step is an important one to take, but there is much more to be done. One important part is simply letting people know that this is going on. Start the conversation! Another important part of fixing this problem is to know where victims can seek help. If you or someone you know has been assaulted, RCASA is here to help. We will help anyone, no matter of race, ethnicity, age, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, gender, or socio economic status. Please feel free to call our hotline at 540-371-1666.
Having someone, whether it be a friend, acquaintance, family member, or coworker, tell you they have been assaulted can be a challenging experience. You might not know what to say or how to respond to help them. Well we’re here to help. Here are some pointers on what to do and what not to do in this situation.
Don’tever ask the person what they were wearing, if they were drinking, if they had a friend with them, if they were walking alone, where they were walking, if they had been with their perpetrator before, etc. You get the point. Don’t interrogate the victim as if the assault is their fault. Always remember no matter situation or circumstance no one ever asks to be assaulted.
Do believe the victim. Tell them you believe what they are saying. Just having someone to believe and validate your story can make a world of difference to a victim of sexual assault.
Don’t tell anyone else what you have heard. Unless a victim gives you permission to tell someone else or if the victim is a child, don’t share their story. That person has entrusted you with deeply painful and personal information. Keep their trust. Often it is the best way to help them. When you show them they have the control in the situation, they will feel more empowered to speak up.
Do listen. Be an active listener when someone is telling you their story. Ask questions to make sure you understand what they are saying. Stay silent when you need to be. Just be there and listen to what they need to tell you. In some cases all a victim is looking for is someone to unload on.
Don’t pressure them into reporting. There are a huge number of reasons why a victim may not report. It is not up to you to decide what that person needs in that moment. Always remember to give the power back to the victim. That includes supporting their decision on whether or not to report.
Do tell them that you are there for them. Let them know that you want to be their support however they may need it. Look up service providers like RCASA and tell them about it. Don’t pressure them into going, but let them know there are services available to them if they choose to seek help.
Don’t ever blame yourself for someone’s assault. Often times friends, partners, or family members feel responsibility when someone they love is assaulted. Always remember that there is only one person at fault in these situations and that is the perpetrator. Make sure your mental health is a priority and always seek help when you need it. Having a loved one assaulted creates enormous amounts of strain on the people who care about the victim. Make sure you get the support you need as well.
Do always remember that RCASA is here to help. If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault please call our 24 hour hotline at 540-371-1666.
This year RCASA will be hosting its 2nd Annual Teal Ribbon Conference April 26th & 27th. The theme for this year is “Understanding Sex Trafficking in Our Community”. But what exactly does that mean? What good will it do to “understand sex trafficking”? Why is this important? Why should you come?
One important part of putting an end to an issue, be it sexual assault or sex trafficking, is to first raise awareness about the issue. People must first be aware of a problem if they are to do anything about it. It is our hope that through this conference RCASA will be able to raise awareness about the issue of sex trafficking and this awareness will prompt people into action.
But how will we raise awareness? This year, in order to raise awareness about the multiple levels of issues related to sex trafficking and to increase understanding about the issue, we have brought in a wide array of speakers to talk about topics such as “Domestic Minor Trafficking”, “Gang Facilitated Sex Trafficking”, and “Victim Cooperation with Investigators.” Our key note speaker this year will be Tina Frundt, a survivor of sex trafficking and founder of Courtney’s House in Washington, D.C. By covering such a wide range of topics related to sex trafficking, participants will be able to become well versed and knowledgeable on the various ways sex trafficking can effect a person, their community, and society at large. It is with these speakers and presentations that we seek to raise awareness and gain understanding.
But how will all of this help? Why should you even care? Currently in the United States over 100,000 children are used as sex slaves. The average age of entry into prostitution is 13. Virginia and in particular our area are some of the worst areas for sex trafficking. Because of our proximity to Interstate 95 and our position between Washington D.C. and Richmond, our community is at high risk for trafficking. Not only is our location a problem, but Virginia has some of the worst sex trafficking laws in the country, and has recently been awarded a grade of “F” for protections for trafficking victims.
So how will this conference help me stop sex trafficking? Through this conference you will not only gain the understanding and knowledge of sex trafficking and the issues associated with it, but you will also be given the tools on how you, as an individual and as a part of a greater community, can combat and prevent sex trafficking, identify victims, and work with victims to help them recover.
Sex trafficking is not a far away issue. It is a problem that is happening here in our own back yards. You have the ability to help stop this growing epidemic. Please join RCASA and our community April 26th & 27th as we work to “Understand Sex Trafficking in Our Community” and help put a stop to this problem. Please sign up while seats are still available at http://rcasa.org/conference/. For more information please contact Jessica Bell at email@example.com or call 540-371-6771.
In the recent case of Steubenville, Ohio in which two young men have been convicted of raping an unconscious 16 year old girl at a party, the more details that emerge, the more disturbing the situation appears. While most of the events of the night are known, more details are still being revealed. As far as the known facts go, this much is clear. At a party with a significant amount of people present two young men raped a young girl multiple times throughout the night. The case has already gone to trial and the two young men involved where found guilty. As shocking and disturbing as this case may be, there are important lessons to be learned from these events to insure that situations like these will cease to exist.
Bystander intervention is important. Multiple witnesses watched and documented these assaults taking place through videos and pictures on their phones. It was then these images that led to the conviction of the perpetrators. However, it never had to get to that point. If one of the people who documented the assaults had instead spoken up, the situation could have been prevented. Only one person throughout the night spoke up and his voice was quickly drowned out. We need to teach our children that they can speak out against sexual assault and they can make a difference. If more of the kids present at this party had spoken up as they saw these events happen, much of assault could have been prevented. If you see a situation unfolding that you don’t think is right, speak up!
Early education is necessary to help prevent sexual assault. All of those involved in these events where in high school. After multiple witnesses had been interviewed asking why they had not done anything to stop the assault, multiple people responded stating they didn’t know what they were witnessing was sexual assault. We need to teach our young people about sexual assault. We need to teach them what sexual assault is and what can be done to stop it. If people know what sexual assault is and are able to identify it when they see it, they are better equipped to help prevent it. Make sure to start these conversations about what positive relationships look like early and have them often in order to stop sexual assault.
Victim blaming is never acceptable. No one, regardless of situation or circumstance, deserves or asks to be sexually assaulted. We need to speak up against those who blame victims for their assaults and let them know that is not acceptable. When we, as a society, express our disapproval of victim blaming behavior, our children will learn it is unacceptable. The converse of that is when we show our kids victim blaming is ok, you have two young girls threaten the life of a victim, as was the case in Steubenville. Victim blaming is wrong and it needs to end. We have a part to play in ending this behavior.
Always remember who the victim is in assault situations. After these events unfolded, the media’s reporting was sympathetic to the perpetrators emphasizing the impact a guilty verdict would have on their lives. While both perpetrators will be places on the sex offenders list, their time in jail will vary. One young man was convicted of rape and was charged to 1 year in prison. The other young man was convicted of rape and child pornography and was convicted to 2 years in prison. In the media’s coverage, they discussed the ways in which these punishments will affect the perpetrators for the rest of their lives. In the same regard, the media did very little reporting of the effect the assault would have on the victim. Perpetrators chose to perpetrate. Victims never make a decision to be assaulted. We need to expect more from our media and let them know their coverage was not acceptable.
We need to start to actively work towards preventing sexual assault. The events of Steubenville can be prevented and each of us has a role to play. Watch this quick video for more information. If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual assault, we are here to help. Please call our hotline at 540-371-1666.
March is National Women’s History Month. It is a time dedicated to honoring those women from our national past who made great strides both for women and for our nation as a whole. Here at RCASA, we celebrate this month by continuing to serve victims of sexual assault, a majority of whom are women. Today, women are overwhelmingly the victims of sexual assault while men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators. While sexual assault is not only a women’s issue (2.78 million men in the U.S. have been victims of sexual assault or rape according to RAINN) it is primarily a problem affecting women (17.7 million American women have been victims of attempted or completed rape according to RAINN). Because sexual assault is such a serious issue in our society, affecting 1 in 4 women by the age of 18, here at RCASA we encourage everyone to celebrate Women’s History Month in the following ways:
Talk to others about this problem! Do not let this be a silent fight. Speak up and speak out against sexual assault! RCASA and the University of Mary Washington will be hosting “Take Back the Night” April 18th to provide both allies and victims an opportunity to speak out against sexual assault. For more information about this event please see: http://rcasa.org/tbtn/
Become a volunteer at RCASA. We are always looking for help from those who are willing to volunteer with us. Whether you want to help with office work or victim advocacy, volunteering with RCASA is a rewarding and fulfilling experience. If you are interested please fill out our application: http://rcasa.org/volunteer/
Attend the production of “The Vagina Monologues” put on by the University of Mary Washington’s Feminists United on Campus March 29th and 30th at 8pm. For information about tickets please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Show the women in your life that you appreciate them. Nothing will be a better way to celebrate Women’s History Month than supporting the women in your life.
Women’s History Month is a time to honor the women from our past and appreciate those in our lives today. From all of us here at RCASA happy Women’s History Month!
This week marked the 85th Academy Awards, which many would argue was one of the most prominent years for outstanding achievements in cinematic production. This year the competition was fierce. In the category of Best Documentary, four documentaries were nominated including “The Invisible War”. While it did not take home the Oscar, its nomination goes to show the impact and importance of this film. The documentary brings attention to the serious problem of sexual assault in the military. Today a woman serving in Iraq or Afghanistan is more likely to be raped by a fellow service member than to be killed in the line of fire. However, as the documentary highlights, this is not simply an issue effecting women, since 2006 more than 95,000 service members, both men and women, have been sexually assaulted in the U.S. military.
The film interviews various veterans and their experience after their assault and the resistance they experienced from the military when they reported. The U.S. military has appalling track record for dealing with sexual assault. In fact, less than 5% of sexual assaults are even considered for prosecution.
“The Invisible War” has helped to raise awareness on this issue and hopefully with an Oscar nomination, more people will take notice of this enormous problem in our military. RCASA hosted multiple screenings of this documentary last November to do our part to raise awareness. If you were not able to attend those showings, the film is available on Netflix. This film is a worthwhile investment of your time as its Oscar nomination proves.
Have you ever heard about or seen a person in an abusive relationship and thought to yourself, “Why don’t you just leave?” It’s ok to admit it. Watching someone being abused is an extremely frustrating situation to be in when all you want to do is help. But how can you do that when they keep going back to their abuser? You may be at a loss of what to say or do and feel completely helpless in the situation.
Well here at RCASA, we want to tell you that you can do something. It can be hard to help someone realize they are in an abusive relationship. Always keep in mind; a lot of different dynamics affect an abusive relationship. The person may very well love their abuser, they may be financially dependent on their abuser, they might have children with their abuser, they might feel as if they have no where to go, etc. The point is, you do not know what this person’s situation is, so it is not helpful to just tell them to leave.
However, one method of helping a person to better see their situation is through the recognition of “Red Flags.” Red Flags are warning signs that a relationship is unhealthy or abusive. You can look for these signs in a relationship you are concerned about whether it is a friend’s or your own (taken from theredflagcampaign.org):
Put down people, including your family and friends, or call them names
Try to isolate you and control whom you see or where you go.
Nag you or force you to be sexual when you don’t want to be.
Cheat on you or have lots of partners
Physically hurt you
Don’t show an interest in your feelings
Tells you how to act or dress
Calls you names (stupid, fat, ugly)
If you are afraid of their temper
If you are afraid to break up with them
Lie to you, don’t show up for dates, maybe even disappear for days.
Experience extreme mood swings. . .tell you you’re the greatest one minute and rip you apart the next minute.
Blame you for how they treat you, or for anything bad that happens.
You tell yourself that if you just try harder and love your partner enough that everything will be just fine.
You find yourself worrying and obsessing about how to please your partner and keep them happy.
If you notice any/some/ all of these signs in a friend’s relationship or your own, it is time to do something. If you notice these signs in a friend’s relationship, talk with them. Let them know you care about them and want to support them. Have them visit theredflagcampaing.org where they can learn about resources available to them. Often times dating abuse involves sexual abuse. If your partner has said something like, “If you loved me, you’ll have sex with me” or has threatened you in order to have any sort of sexual contact, this is a red flag. Always remember that sexual assault does not change because you are in a relationship. Any type of unwanted sexual contact is sexual assault whether it’s your friend or your husband of 20 years. If you have been a victim or know someone who was a victim of sexual assault in an abusive relationship please contact RCASA at our 24 hour free confidential hotline, 540-371-1666.
Valentines Day can mean a lot of different things to people. Below are some tips that might apply to your situation this Valentines Day.
If you have asked someone new to be your Valentine this year, it can be assumed you don’t know everything about that person. Whether you go out to dinner, a movie, dancing, skydiving, etc, keep in mind that you cannot read another persons’ mind. If Cupid’s arrow strikes you and you feel the urge to go in for that oh so magical first kiss remember: it is ALWAYS better to ask first. You might think this is not very suave, but what’s sexier, showing your Valentine you respect them or assuming you know what they want?
Have been dating for sometime, but this is your first Valentines Day:
So you and your significant other have been together for a little and this is your first Valentines Day the two of you will share. You are starting to feel the pressure of making this day perfect down to the last detail. You want to make everything right for your sweetheart. You want them to know how much you care. You start to get nervous thinking other couples will be doing something more romantic, better, more extravagant and you think your own idea will never hold up in comparison. I mean what if your Valentine hates your idea? What if they break up with you because it wasn’t good enough? What if?! What if?!!…BREATHE!! Relax. We tend to put a TON of emphasis on couples, men especially, to go as over the top as they can for Valentines Day thinking that whatever you do on this day shows your significant other how much you really care. Try and keep in mind that you will do far better for you and your partner in a healthy state of mind than in frantic perfectionist mode. The idea of this day is to be with the one you love and to appreciate one another, not to out-do other couples. Your mental health is important. So, as the Brits like to say, Keep Calm and Carry On and have a wonderful Valentines Day.
This will mark your umpteenth Valentines Day together:
The two of you have been dating/married/together for all of eternity it feels like. You feel as if you have nothing left. You used up all your good ideas in the first three years and now you’re grasping at straws. What can you do? Possibly up to this point you have always exchanged gifts, planned a romantic date, or sent flowers to your sweetheart. In short you each of you do something for the other. Part of a healthy relationship is open communication and cooperation. Why not this year do something together? Work together openly communicating your wants, your expectations, and your ideas while remaining open to your partners wants, expectations, and ideas. This goes back to our first paragraph. Sometimes it is better to ask first, to be open with your partner whether on what you want for dinner or what you want sexually. This helps take the pressure off of both of you while giving each person what they want.
Communication + Cooperation + Love = Happy Valentines Day
You are single:
Yet another Valentines Day where LITERALLY everyone else in the world has someone and you are still single. Valentines Day can certainly feel painful for those of us who are without that someone special for this day. It is very easy to slip into a negative attitude watching couples exchange gifts. So how do you avoid these feelings? First, let’s take a page from our good old friends the Greeks. The Greeks knew that there exists more than one kind of love rather there are three kinds of love. There is Philos, love between friends, Eros, sexual love, and Agape, unconditional love. Now this Valentines Day you might be without Eros, but you might have people in your life that fall under the Philos category. Since Valentines Day is about being with the one you love, why not ask you best friend to be your Valentine? There are many people in your life that you share some kind of love with. This year instead of feeling sad because you don’t have a romantic partner, smile because you have a best friend, a sibling, a parent, a coworker you love. Plan a date with your Valentine and let yourself be happy in the company of someone you love, because that is what the day is all about.
As a nation, we encounter our fair share of sexist ads and commercials. But there is something special about the Super bowl that seems to bring out the worst in companies. It is a time when companies pay through the roof for air space (this year they paid a record breaking $4 million for a 30 second ad according to the Huffington Post) while having an enormous captive audience, last year over 111 million viewers. When companies make the decision to use time and money to promote sexism and, this year, sexual assault, it’s upsetting.
Audi’s commercial of choice this year told the story of a young man going to the prom alone. After driving to prom in his father’s Audi, he suddenly gains the courage to rush into the dance, grab the prom queen, and kiss her. The young man drives away with a black eye, presumably from the prom king, and a look of satisfaction on his face. Audi deemed this an act of “bravery.” However, by every definition under the law, that “bravery” was sexual assault.
It gets better. When the camera pans back to the prom queen (i.e. the victim) she looks content with what has just happened. In this commercial, aired to millions of Americans, the message here is clear: violating a person’s personal space is brave, it will leave you feeling fulfilled, and your victim will like it.
The worst part is this ad is not the first of its kind. While Super bowl ads are notorious for promoting sexism many also promote sexual assault. Last year Fiat put forth an ad depicting a beautiful woman in the street. A man walking by stops and ogles at her (here at RCASA, we like to call this street harassment http://rcasa.org/blog/?p=5615). While at first the woman reprimands the man for his behavior she then turns on the sex appeal pulling him close and dropping cream from his coffee on her chest. Again the message we see here is that it is ok to ogle at women on the street because it turns them on.
It is time to say enough is enough to these companies and tell them this type of behavior is unacceptable. You are not helpless to voice your opinion to these companies. Try going to their facebook, https://www.facebook.com/audi, and tell them your thoughts. Companies don’t want bad publicity, especially on facebook so you should get an answer back quickly. Most importantly, remember that any unwanted sexual contact is sexual assault and it is a crime.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault please call our hotline, (540)-371-1666 or visit our offices.
When it comes to picking a new residence there are many elements to take into consideration. Are there any parks near my new house? Are there any malls close by? How are the schools? How far is the closest gas station? Are there high crime rates?
But have you checked your new neighborhood for registered sex offenders?
A sex offender is defined as a person who has been convicted of a sexual offense: such as rape or child molestation. In 2011 alone, there were 4,815 reported sexual offenses in Virginia. While only 5.3% of sex offenders are rearrested for a sexual offense, it is never a bad idea to know the demographics of your area.
–present the lowest possible risk to the community and their likelihood to re-offend is considered minimal
Level 2: Moderate Risk.
–present a moderate risk to the community and they have a higher likelihood of re-offending than level 1 offenders
Level 3: High Risk
–pose a potential high risk to the community and are threats to re-offend if provided the opportunity
Sexually Violent Predator
–is above all three levels and in most cases he/she is not released from prison or an institution
This is not to say that you can ensure the safety of yourself or your family by moving into a neighborhood with less registered sexual offenders. Studies show that approximately 80% of women reporting sexual assaults knew their assailant. Many people think that sexual offenders are “mentally ill” but in most cases sexual offenders seem like “ordinary” and “normal” individuals. They come from all educational, occupational, racial and cultural backgrounds.
A sexual offender living in your neighborhood could alter your thinking about your new living space. You can go to http://www.familywatchdog.us/ to see registered sex offenders near your area. We do not advocate for cruel behavior towards convicted sex offenders, but it is important to be educated about your community. Just remember to be aware of your surroundings.