Updated: Dec 17, 2020
***Trigger Warning: mentions of domestic violence, rape, and sexual assault
Modern society has a side that most deny even exists. It’s a side that people distance themselves from and claim that “it could never happen to me.” I am talking about sexual aggression. Sexual aggression is an umbrella term that encompasses stalking, harassment, intimate personal violence, domestic violence, and sexual assault. Many believe it will never happen to them, but statistics reveal sexual assault will affect 1 in 6 women and 1 in 10 men in their lifetime. With the #MeToo movement, sexual aggression has received a position in the spotlight of our society.
"'Sexual aggression is an umbrella term that encompasses stalking, harassment, intimate personal violence, domestic violence, and sexual assault. "
Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement, started in 2006 on Myspace. Her strong advocacy has since expanded to all other social media platforms and became a world-wide movement of speaking out against sexual harassment and abuse. Survivors of sexual aggression and their loved ones have also been able to find groups of supporters through this movement.
In my personal experience, I volunteered as a sexual aggression Peer Advocate while in college. As advocates, we ran a 24/7 crisis hotline and chat service for survivors of sexual aggression. We also facilitated in-person meetings and educational programs for group organizations and institutions. One condition of being a Peer Advocate is you are required to complete a total of 60 training hours a year on how to best advocate for survivors of sexual aggression. We don't take their care lightly.
During my two years as an advocate, I was taught how sexual aggression takes away one's power and control. The focus of giving survivors their control and power back is the most important and best way to show support. This can be done by:
1. Telling a survivor you believe them
A survivor's story may alter as they process the situation.
2. Make sure they know it is not their fault
Someone else decided to take their power and control away from them.
3. Meet a survivor where they are
Don’t force someone to report or tell you more than they are comfortable
4. Do not ask “why” questions
Doing this puts the blame back on the survivor (whether you mean to or
5. Ensure they have a clean and direct exit in every situation
This guarantees they do not feel trapped and gives them some power and
6. Listen to the survivor; don’t jump right to giving them advice or opinions
This helps survivors to feel heard and believed.
7. Do not get revenge on behalf of a survivor
The survivor needs to know that you are there for them and not going to
do something that will put you in jail or otherwise endanger you or them.
There is no correct or easy way to hear that someone you care about is a survivor of sexual violence. You may experience an array of emotions, like disbelief, anger, sadness, guilt, anxiety, and/or confusion. All of these emotions have the power to cloud one's ability to communicate clearly. When these emotions arise, it is safe to address them but do not let them consume you.
"...sexual aggression takes away one's power and control"
A secondary survivor is a possibility when learning a loved one has been affected by sexual violence. Though you are not directly affected by sexual violence, you are indirectly affected due to their connection with the survivor. It is encouraged that secondary survivors talk to someone about how they are feeling, and possibly seek out professional help from a counselor or other resource. This does not mean taking action or making decisions for a survivor, but ensuring that you are taking care of yourself to help your loved one in their healing process.
Our society has been affected by sexual violence for far too long. If we all do our part to speak out and stop this violence, a difference may be made. Until then, look out for each other and remember that the best in life is yet to come.
Please reach out to those around you or to professionals when you are struggling. No one should go through hard times alone.
Hi, my name is Kenzie, I am a new college graduate with a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology and Sociology with an emphasis in Youth Studies and a World Religion's minor. During college, I served as a Sexual Aggression Peer Advocate operating a 24/7 sexual aggression crisis hotline. My personal journey with anxiety has been lifelong and I have devoted my career to helping those who experience it too. I am now working as a Youth Treatment Specialist in Michigan. Something fun to know about me is that I became a black belt in TaeKwonDo when I was 13!