Thursday, February 25, 2010

You might wonder why I'm doing this...

After reading this article courtesy of NPR and Joseph Shapiro, Campus Rape Victims: A Struggle for Justice, I realized (unfortunately again), why I am interested in raising awareness, promoting education and communication, and advocating on behalf on women and men who have been affected by sexual abuse. A month ago, I came across a volunteer opportunity with a local rape assistance and awareness program reaching out to volunteers interested in "being on the hotline." After 40 hours of training, you could be the person on the receiving end of this sexual assault hotline. I attempted this training prior to my move, but due to my sudden desire to disappear, I withdrew and packed my bags.

Seconds after reading the posted opportunity I knew I stumbled upon it for a reason, but this time around I was going to be committed. And I was. Fourty-hours later, I am now representing RAAP, and quickly finding out why the position was posted, why it will be posted in three months in search for more volunteers, and with much disgust, why it might forever be posted.

I'm not following a speech nor am I memorizing a check list. Instead, I am answering each call with warmth in my heart and concern in my voice. I am providing resources, names, numbers, answers and most of all the utmost understanding to a caller, while she/he may not know me, they know I am here to help.

I want to be the voice, an advocate and mentor to those who aren't sure where to go, what to do and if someone will even listen. I want to be all of these things and more simply because rape isn't discussed, it rarely has a voice, it does not come with an immediate response of knowing what to do next and unfortunately, more often than not, goes unnoticed. This isn't just a problem, it's a nightmare. Also, misleading and terrifying are the statistics surrounding sexual assault. One of which, I discovered through the NPR article:

"One of out 5 women will be sexually assaulted during her college years. And despite federal laws created to protect students, colleges and universities have failed to protect women from this epidemic of sexual assault. Even after they've been found responsible for sexual assault, students are rarely expelled or suspended."

C'mon now! Are we serious. It's okay to lock up a woman or man on the street walking with weed in their pocket, but yet punishing a perpetrator who has violated a woman's (on behalf of the article's case) body, sexuality and most importantly consent aka HER VOICE has been pushed aside. I'm fuming over here if it's not obvious.

My intent on posting about optimistic and glass half-full posts has failed. My optimism on safety for women continues to spiral downward and my glass has been shattered. Universities, institutions, communities, households, daycares, work offices, medical offices (Delaware Pediatrician), basically anywhere and everywhere, sexual assaults are taking place and we are allowing them to be brushed aside. Speak up, act, take a stand, provide protection, address the issue, promote education, supply resources... if nothing else seeps in, please consider the fact "1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted at some point in their life." 1 IN 4!!! Take a room full of your sisters, mothers, cousins, neighbors, friends, girlfriends, nieces, aunts, grandmothers and any other women or girls in your life who don't fit into these categories and consider the number, 1 in 4 of them will be affected/violated by sexual abuse at some point in their life.

Our families, friends and community members need help. Please, truly listen with your ears and say something with your voice. This issue needs to become more of a public issue rather than a secret nightmare.

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