As I sat and watched Mr. Terry Crews testify before a senate judicial committee to advocate for a survivor’s bill of rights for all 50 states, I want to thank him profusely for his strength. So many people have questioned him as to why he didn’t use his physical strength to fight back and what people fail to realize is he is using a different kind of strength.

There are so many people that have stood up in recent months and I applaud each and every one of them. They are helping others come forward and being a voice for all survivors.  People are working tirelessly to eradicate sexual assault and violence towards people in all of our communities.

Why as a community would we want to make a survivor feel like they have to remain silent? Shouldn’t we work hard as a community to silence and debilitate the perpetrators? Why do perpetrators have more rights than a survivor?

We live in a world that doesn’t like to talk about sexual assault. Sexual violence is grossly under-reported. So often we see survivors being blamed and persistently stereotyped by communities. Why? Just think about that question for a minute. My response is, they certainly didn’t do anything wrong and don’t deserve to be treated differently because of the trauma that has occurred.

Most everyone has been through a stressful or traumatic event in their life at some point.  According to the CDC, traumatic events are marked by an act of danger, powerlessness, injury, or the threat of critical injury or death.  Traumatic events affect survivors, friends, and relatives of victims.  Individuals go running to help someone if they witness an active traumatic situation, such as a serious injury from a car wreck, but so many turn their backs on survivors of sexual violence. Why? Because they have experienced a trauma that people are uncomfortable with. No matter the trauma, everyone deserves support and understanding regardless if it makes someone uncomfortable.

RAINN reports, “every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted,” We as community and a country must respond differently to survivors. We as a community must respond differently to statistics like the ones RAINN reports.

After working at Ampersand for two years it is evident that the majority of the community lacks understanding about the extent of the problem and the tremendous amount of trauma an individual can endure from an assault, and the true nature of the crime.  No one knows what to say to a survivor.  A good start is, “I believe you.”  Stand up and support that person.

All survivors deserve our support and this includes those who have not come forward yet.

For anyone reading this who feels silenced, who can’t come forward for any reason, we at Ampersand believe you and are here for you. We understand why speaking out can be so hard, you know what is best for you.

For anyone reading this who wants to help us build a different world, get involved with this movement and help make the change.  We hope one day we will all have freedom from sexual violence, and I truly believe we can with everyone’s help. We will do this together by supporting individuals & engaging communities…it will make a difference for our future.