Sexual Assault Awareness Month; It’s Time to Remind Ourselves That There’s Still More Work to Be Done

April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. While we shouldn’t limit talking about this incredibly pressing problem to just one month out of the year, it’s at least a start. This time should be dedicated to shedding light on what is happening all too often to our friends, neighbors, loved ones, and ourselves. 

You might be thinking that we have been talking about this subject. And yes, with the explosion of the #metoo movement a few years ago, we have become more open about discussing it. And some people might even worry that we’re in danger of becoming desensitized to the topic. But, while that might be an issue, the reality is that just talking about it for a short period of time does not mean we’re all “aware” enough. 

black and white picture of a woman
Advocating for sexual assault prevention in the U.S. began in the 1940s and 50s with the civil rights era.

The truth is, the problem of sexual assault is woven into the fabric of our society, and we need to do everything we can to unweave it. To say that this will be difficult is an understatement, and it will involve not just empowering women and girls and lifting up survivors, but also a cooperative, collaborative effort from all of us. For now, though, what we would like to do is continue to raise awareness and offer some ways that survivors can find the support that they need.

The History

As we said, the fact that we have a Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) now, and have since 2001, is the result of a sea change in our thinking about sexual abuse, harassment, and assault. We’ve been slowly chipping away at this issue, lifting the stigma, and encouraging a change in society and more support for survivors.

Advocating for sexual assault prevention in the United States started with movements for social change and equality that began in the 1940s and 50s with the civil rights era. Although open discussion of the realities of sexual assault and domestic violence were limited at these times, activists for equal rights began to challenge the status quo, and lay the foundation for more open discussions and more action.

In fact, this activism in the mid-20th century led to more widespread work around the issue of sexual assault in the 1970s. This time saw more support for survivors and heightened awareness of the realities of sexual assault. The first rape crisis center was founded in San Francisco in 1971, the same city where the first U.S. Take Back the Night event was held seven years later. 

This work began to snowball, and would eventually lead to more mobilized survivors and advocates calling for more national efforts to prevent sexual violence, such as legislation and funding. Advocates in the 90s held events, marches and observances related to sexual violence, especially in the month of April, during what was beginning to be called “Sexual Assault Awareness Week, and in that same decade, the Violence Against Women Act of 1993 (VAWA) was passed. 

And now, as of 2001, we have Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and each year brings us more opportunities to make changes and do better. Don’t get us wrong: the activists that have come before have done amazing things: just reading about the changes in the laws and the ability for to survivors to speak out makes you want to shake the hand of everyone involved. But we have to remember that  there is still work to be done. 

For example, federal funding for survivors is still far too little, and the VAWA is far from perfect. We also need to get men more involved in all of these movements, especially since they are the ones that still hold more power, and are more often the perpetrators. We are slowly turning from the idea that it is up to women to “prevent” the sexual assaults happening to them, but more needs to be done.

The Shocking Statistics

So no, we are not where we were 50, 30, or even just 10 years ago. And we certainly don’t want to diminish the work that anyone has done for survivors of sexual assault. But that’s just it: we are still seeing far too many people becoming “survivors.” So let’s take a moment and remind ourselves how much more work needs to be done, and raise awareness of the shocking statistics surrounding sexual assault in this country.stopwatch

  • According to RAINN, a person is sexually assaulted every 68 seconds in this country
  • On average, there are 463,634 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States
  • One in five women, and one in 71 men, will be raped at some point in their lives
  • In the U.S., one in three women, and one in six men, have experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime
  • 9 out of 10 victims of sexual assault are female
  • Only 25 out of every 1,000 rapists will end up in prison
  • 46.7% of women who have experienced sexual violence report the offender was an acquaintance, while 45.4% report the offender was an intimate partner
  • We ARE making progress. The rate of sexual assault and rape has fallen 63% since 1993, from a rate of 4.3 assaults per 1,000 people in 1993, to 1.2 per 1000 in 2016

And those are just some of the eye-opening numbers. For example, if we do a further breakdown of who in this country is more likely to experience sexual assault, we get a distressing picture of young women, Native women, inmates, transgender women, and other minority women experiencing frightening rates of sexual assault. It’s not easy to read about, but it’s important that we know just what the scope of the problem is that we’re dealing with.

Where You Can Turn for Support

The dire statistics above lead to another set of statistics: those surrounding the impact of sexual assault on survivors. 

  • 94% of women who are raped experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during the two weeks following the rape
  • 30% of women report symptoms of PTSD 9 months after the rape
  • 33% of women who are raped contemplate suicide
  • 13% of women who are raped attempt suicide
  • Approximately 70% of rape or sexual assault victims experience moderate to severe distress, a larger percentage than for any other violent crime
  • 38% of victims of sexual violence experience work or school problems, which can include significant problems with a boss, coworker, or peer.
  • 37% experience family/friend problems, including getting into arguments more frequently than before, not feeling able to trust their family/friends, or not feeling as close to them as before the crime.

But there are places that survivors can turn, no matter how long ago the assault was or what the assault entailed (there is no “minor” sexual assault), so they can get support and begin to move forward. If you’ve been a victim of sexual assault, you can begin your search, and your journey to healing, by seeking out your local rape crisis center.

And, across the nation, there are charities and organizations that help assault survivors and their loved ones in multiple ways, from educating the general public to offering mental-health services, legal resources, and financial aid directly to survivors. There are far too many to list (and many are local organizations, so be on the lookout for those), but we’d like to get you started with a few. 

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual abuse, or if you want to learn more about how you can support survivors and be an advocate for change, learning about these programs and organizations can be a useful place to start:

The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN)

RAINN is the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the U.S. and, in addition to its informational materials, it offers a number of other services, including a hotline for individuals to find the specific help they need. You can reach the hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE (4673), and if you are seeking state or local resources ranging from shelters to advocacy projects in your own region, a national organization like RAINN may be able to help you locate them. If you’d like to donate to RAINN, you’ll be pleased to know that 95 cents of every dollar goes to helping survivors.


silhouette of a person with their hand up in a red prohibited sign
There are many organizations that can help sexual assault survivors, like NO MORE.

If you are looking to be an advocate for change, you can support NO MORE, a coalition of allies, advocates, survivors, government agencies, and individual citizens working toward preventing sexual violence. Instead of donations, you can shop NO MORE’s products and the proceeds go directly to their partner organizations which work toward advocacy and prevention.

The National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV)

The National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV) focuses on legislation that supports survivors and prevents sexual violence. It was created by a coalition of statewide organizations, local rape crisis centers, and advocates. NAESV has helped accomplish anti-sexual violence work at a national level, including the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Donate to NAESV here.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC)

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) is working to prevent sexual violence through education, collaboration, and resources for survivors. Their recent study in perceptions of assault is eye opening and proof that we need to be talking more as a culture about what constitutes consent. Donate to the NSVRC here.


FORGE is a national transgender anti-violence organization that provides direct services to transgender, gender non-conforming, and gender non-binary survivors of sexual assault. Additionally, they provide trainings and technical assistance to providers who work with TGNC survivors of sexual assault, domestic and dating violence, and stalking.

Joyful Heart

Joyful Heart is a leading national organization with a mission to transform society’s response to sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse, and to support survivors’ healing. Joyful Heart carries out its mission through an integrated program portfolio of education and advocacy. Their advocacy campaigns allow for people to lend their voice to raise awareness about issues facing survivors and survivors’ communities.

Know Your IX

Know Your IX provides information to students about their Title IX rights in regards to ending sexual violence on campus. As a survivor- and youth-led project, Know Your IX believes that student activism is crucial to effecting change. Their resource and action-rich website provides students with shareable graphics and information to circulate on social media or on campus, opportunities to join the broader movement of campus organizers, and a multitude of tools and resources to help young folks hold all of their institutions accountable.

If you have been the victim of sexual assault, as so many people have been, please start by reaching out to RAINN for help. If you want to be an advocate for change and a supporter of survivors, please also check out the organizations above, and educate yourself. After all, as Polly Poskin, Executive Director of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault has pointed out, “Understanding why rape occurs is an integral part of how to stop rape and how to heal from rape.” Sexual assault is all of our problems, and it lies with all of us to continue the work of making things right.

An Uncomfortable Truth: Losing Your Virginity to Rape


A four-letter word with a huge impact. Thanks to the #MeToo movement, which is widely credited with raising the national awareness of sexual assault, we have more open conversations around sexual violence and harassment. 

More women have the courage to speak out, and seek help. Sexual assault is too often underreported. But a recent study shed light on a type of sexual assault- rape. Over 3 million women in the U.S. report that their first sexual experience was rape. 

Caucasian womans bare back holding her hair up while looking down
Women who are sexually assaulted or harrassed often deal wit long-term consequences such as depression.

In September 2019, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 1 in 16 women (many in their teens) were either coerced or outright forced into their first sexual encounter.

Long-term health consequences stem from attacks like these. Your first sexual encounter changes everything, and for rape victims, it can put a stain on sex forever.

The Daunting Study

From 2011-2017, more than 13,300 American women between the ages of 18 and 45 were surveyed. Here are the disturbing results:

  •  Out of every 16 women, one reported their first sexual encounter was not consensual. 
  • More than 4 in 10 women reported being physically restrained during these incidents.
  • About 56% said they were verbally pressured into having sex, while 25% were subjected to violence. 
  • The average age of these women is just 15 years old, while the average age of the assailant was 27 years old. 

Dr. Laura Hawks, main author of the new study, writes “It’s quite alarming, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg because this study is only including women aged 18 to 44.” The doctor is also a research fellow at the Cambridge Health Alliance, a health care provider in Cambridge, Mass. She continues with “You can imagine that if we asked this of women of all ages, then absolutely number would be many millions higher.”

Further findings in the study showed that reports of rape correlated strongly with health issues. These women admitted to problems with ovulation or menstruation irregularities, unwanted first pregnancies, abortions, endometriosis, and poor overall health. 

Furthermore, these women were less likely to be white,college-educated, or American citizens, and more likely to have incomes below the poverty level.

The Emotional Battle

Caucasian womand hand on the ground with pills in the palm and pills laying on the floor next to her hand.
The scars left, both physically and emotionally, take a toll on their day to day lives. Women admitted to drug abuse after being sexually assaulted.

Drug abuse is also rampant with the women in this study. The scars left, both physically and emotionally, take a toll on their day to day lives. The study asked the women if they had difficulty completing tasks due to physical or mental health conditions, and the answer from those with sexual assault in their past was “yes.”

Dr. Alison Huang, an associate professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, says in some ways, women who are verbally coerced “feel more shamed, isolated and traumatized, because of the extent to which their experiences are not endorsed by others, or regarded sympathetically by others.”

The study concluded in September 2017, prior to the #MeToo movement. Dr. Hawks supposed the numbers would go up even more if they started the study after the movement. “From other studies I’ve heard of, and from my own opinion about this, women are feeling more empowered to identify their own experiences as non-consensual assault or rape,” she says.

What We Can Do

Women who experience sexual assault or trauma feel ashamed to open up. The adverse health conditions that arise from any sexual assault can spiral if not treated. Mental and physical health can worsen, preventing even simple tasks from being done, causing depression, and eventually, drug use. 

“I do believe that this is an issue that urgently needs to be addressed,” Dr. Hawks adds. “Because every week, thousands of women are experiencing rape as their first sexual experience.”

Perhaps one way we can help is by providing a safe medical environment. Clinicians could screen women for sexual violence and ask them about their first sexual encounter. 

However, this would need a high level of security. These clinicians need training to understand how sexual trauma might manifest in physical conditions. Dr. Hawks thinks “We should really become better practitioners of trauma-informed care, which is a practice of incorporating exposure to prior trauma experienced by the patient into the treatment plan.”

Empty classroom with desks and chalkboards.
We should educate our children at an early age about consent and sexual assault in order to prevent it.

As always, education can be a forerunner for change. Teaching children about consent at an early age is a viable option. While “the talk” in uncomfortable, finding out your child either engaged in sexual assault or fell victim to it is much worse. We can no longer excuse predatory behavior under the cloak of “that’s just how things are.”

Perhaps we should educate children and teens more about the meaning of consent, rape, and sexual harassment/assault. The more young adults are aware of the meaning of consent, and the consequences of breaking consent, then the less likely sexual assault will happen. Better to educate young adults and reprimand them than to accept excuses such as “boys will be boys.”

Victim Shaming & Social Media, R. Kelly’s Digital Defense

A couple of weeks ago, I published an article regarding the allegations against R. Kelly, made by his victims who came forward. In the article, I focused on how a sexual predator like him got away with their heinous crimes of raping, molesting, and the mental abuse upon their victims. The comments and responses regarding his actions, amongst others, were so disheartening, and quite frankly sickening. As if being sexually assaulted is not hard enough on a person, but then the victim has to endure the blaming and shaming that follows. It is just as traumatic, if not worse. It just further proves my point of why victims are afraid to come forward, essentially letting these predators get away with it, and doing it again and again.


These are just some of the shameful words by others, telling the victims to “leave him alone, respect themselves, it’s not rape,” and more. How can these people, mainly women defend a man like R Kelly is indescribable. Even if they wanted to defend him, fine. But to call these victims names and shame them? Disgusting.


Statistics show that out of every 1000 rapes, 995 perpetrators will walk free. Out of those 1000 rapes, only 230 are reported to the police. That means almost 70% of sexual assaults are not reported. Why? Victims are too ashamed. Sexual assault is about power and control, and it dehumanizes a person. It robs the victim of any sense of safety, leaving them feeling helpless.

It’s like being assaulted all over again

Can you blame victims for not wanting to come forward with all the victim shaming that occurs? Victims already feel ashamed, and blame themselves. It is such a traumatizing experience to go through, and then on top of it to have people turn around and blame you, is mortifying. Blaming the victim is the most common reaction people have when they hear of a sexual assault. And these R. Kelly supporters/fans continued to shame these victims that came forward. Some called them derogatory names, while others said they all did it for the money. Their reputation is ruined. They are drug through the mud, their lives put under a microscope, and branded with the name “slut”, and “whore.”Would you dare to come forward, only to have to endure all of that? Most likely not.

It’s HIS fault










Even when confronted with the truth that it falls on him to handle the situation properly, others stood up to his defense, blaming the parents and money. 

I think we are all missing the whole point of what is going on with R. Kelly, and all of these other people in power. These men sexually assaulted these women. Period. R. Kelly, whether these young girls threw themselves at him or not, is the grown up! He knows what is right and what is wrong, otherwise he wouldn’t have been hiding what he is doing with these young girls. He is the adult, and should know better. These women that were underage are still growing up, and figuring out life. He should’ve rejected these young girls and avoided them. But he chose not to. He is the one who did wrong, not these young girls. Whether these girls did it for money, fame, or did not want it at all, he is the mature, grown man that knows better and should’ve done better. It does not excuse his behavior if he paid them off, or was in a relationship with them. It especially does not excuse his behavior because he is rich, famous, or loved by his fans. He is disgusting. He is sick. He is a sexual predator.

Think about what we are doing as a society. Not only are we discouraging even more women from coming forward, but we are letting these perpetrators get away with it. This only empowers them to feel as if they can do it again without any consequence. This is an epidemic in our society. We have to do better, for our children, our loved ones, and ourselves.

Educate & Encourage

We should encourage women, and make it safe for them to report a sexual assault. Educate our young girls and women on the risks of sexual assault. Victims never cause themselves to be raped or molested. The shame that women carry around, blaming themselves for what happened is bad enough. It is disheartening to think that we could’ve prevented it. But we can help them heal, talk about it, and get the justice they need. We need to encourage victims, including males, to talk and get help so they can properly deal with the trauma. WE NEED TO STOP VICTIM BLAMING.

“I Didn’t Care Until I Had A Daughter” How R. Kelly Got Away With It

Plastered all over the media right now is the R. Kelly docu-series featuring the stories of victims coming forward to talk about the sexual, emotional, and physical abuse perpetrated by R. Kelly. But why is this a big deal now? We experienced the same allegations in the early 2000’s when he went to trial for child pornography charges for the famous sex tape of him with an underage girl, “allegedly.” Could it be that we did not really care about what

R. Kelly has gotten away with years of abuse towards young and underage women, but how?
R. Kelly has gotten away with years of abuse towards young and underage women, but how?

happened until the generation that went through it grew up and had kids of our own? This is the case for me. I did not put any of the allegations into perspective until I had a daughter of my own. When the trial was happening, I did not think twice about it, and now that this is all resurfacing while I have a daughter, it enrages me. A lot of people are questioning why care now? Why is this a big deal now and not before?

It is easier to sit back and judge the situation when you do not have to think about experiencing it. These young girls thought they were doing this because they had to, because they were impressionable. They saw this celebrity that they admired and thought “if I don’t do this, he won’t like me.” R. Kelly took advantage of them. He abused his celebrity power to extort these girls.

Time and time again, especially when it comes to people in power, socuety will blame the victim.
Time and time again, especially when it comes to people in power, society will blame the victim.

Are We The Issue?

Unfortunately these acts of manipulation don’t end with R. Kelly, instead we see politicians, religious figures, people of power and great influences able to continuously escape persecution, and suspicion in our society. Clinical Psychologist Dr. Jody Adewale states “Our society tends to compartmentalize the things we don’t want to look at it, and magnifies and glorifies the things that we do. For example, if an individual is providing something to the society such as music, cinema, and politics, then we are more likely to compartmentalize the negative behavior and minimize it as a way of accepting what they are contributing.”

People have blamed the victims, calling them “fast,” and assume that it is somehow their fault. One of R. Kelly’s victims, Asante McGee stated in the docu-series, “We are not blaming R. Kelly for what he’s doing, instead we are blaming each other. When you have fans like myself, when I was that fan- the die hard fan, I just felt like ‘oh these girls are lying.’”

I interviewed Jennifer Poehler, MSW, LSW, previous mental health clinician who conducted a court ordered sex offender therapy group, and current director of Victim Services at the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office in PA, about victims and their abusers. When I asked why these victims do not come forward, she stated “they are afraid that their abuser will harm them again. They do not want to make a very private matter public, are worried that they will be blamed for what happened or not believed, feel ashamed, guilty and/or embarrassed.”

Now that I have a daughter of my own, I have a deeper connection to the stories, and it angers, and disgusts, me more than it would have if I did not have children of my own.. How can we as a community be so reckless and lack empathy? I can not believe the things that R. Kelly did to these girls, and continues to do. These kids were robbed of their innocence. I am not saying that I did not care before, but that I am more aware of how much it happens, and how much it hurts the family. When I became a parent, I naturally grew protective of the well being of my own children. This heightened my sense of unjust and frustration of both our criminal system and our social structures.

When I worked in a jail, sex offenders never bothered me. Then I had my daughter, and everything changed. I became more aware of their crimes and their lack of empathy. Grew more protective.
Sex offenders never bothered me. Then I had my daughter, and everything changed. 

When I used to work in a jail, I used to deal with sex offenders and pedophiles all the time. The severity of their crimes never really bothered me. Everyone has some sort of criminal they don’t like, whether murderers, drug addicts who say it wasn’t their fault with excuses and go in and out of the jail like a revolving door, thiefs, or sex offenders. When I was pregnant with my daughter, i paid close attention to the sex offenders and their crimes. I grew extremely disgusted and wanted nothing to do with them. What was worse was the smug attitude that they had, with most saying they either didn’t do it, or “it was consensual.” As if a child could consent to something, especially after being groomed by these predators. I grew protective of the kids that these predators molested and abused. Before having children, they were just normal people like everyone else in the jail who committed a crime. But after kids, I viewed them as scum. Who would look at a kid and want to do anything like that to them? They are the most innocent and pure creatures on the planet, I couldn’t understand. I mean I knew sex offenders and predators existed, and I just thought “that’s weird.” After having a child of my own, my view on them has completely changed to “what a horrible monster!”

What About The Parents?

Everyone asks about the whereabouts of these girl’s parents. As the docu-series shows, some of these parents are still fighting for their daughters. Some fighting for justice for their daughters and what they endured, while others fighting to get their daughters,who are locked away in Kelly’s house, back. However, the  majority of these girls were lying to their parents, telling them they were at a friends house, or their parents were working multiple jobs to support their family.

The reason a lot of these predators get away with it, is not just society turning a blind eye, or victims being afraid to come forward. These predators have no sense of empathy, and to some they continue to abuse because they think they are invincible. They scare and abuse their victims into silence, and for some, like R. Kelly who have gotten away with it for so long, feel like they will never get caught. They continue to abuse and take it a step further over time. When I asked in Ms. Poehler’s experience if the predators are remorseful, she replied “Although the majority of sexual related crimes are resolved via plea agreement in criminal courts, which gives survivors the guarantee of a conviction, abusers are unlikely to show signs of empathetic remorse. They often exhibit co-occurring disorders such as sociopathy, narcissism and other anti-social personality traits. This means they possess little to no empathy.”

Most of the time a victim will not say anything because they are afraid of their abuser.
Most of the time a victim will not say anything because they are afraid of their abuser.

I asked Jennifer Poehler the same question everyone’s been asking about the parents and what they can do to help. She stated “Children are more likely to disclose abuse if they are living with supportive caretakers. Most victims know their abusers, may live with their abusers, and may be experiencing other forms of violence in the home. If children have at least one trusted and safe adult to whom they can disclose, there is an increased likelihood of the abuse being revealed. If children are being threatened with violence by their abuser and/or are being groomed for sexual activity, the signs may not be immediately apparent to other adults in the home. Remember that predators are just that; they wait for opportune moments where they can be alone with their victims. Parents should take notice of warning signs, including changes in mood, appetite and hygiene, inappropriate sexualized behavior, poor school performance, aversion to physical touch, self-injurious behavior, and physical signs of abuse such as injury to genital areas (the genitals tend to heal quickly, so physical findings are not always evident).”

As the founder of #MeToo, Tarana Burke stated, “The way that we as a society talk about and think about sexual violence, a lot of times, it puts the owness on the victim. People are brainwashed into thinking that they have complicity in their own abuse, and so they don’t come forward because of the deep shame, the fear of being ostracized in their community. There are all these different factors that allow people to stay silent.” The reality is that when some children decide to speak up and tell their parents about the abuse, their parents are in denial. The parents feel like they failed their kids, and failed at protecting them, so they choose to not accept it. They do not want to believe they allowed this to happen to their kid, and never saw the signs. No one wants to believe that it could happen to their kid, but it does. What is worse is that these young boys and girls are afraid to come forward. We need to constantly talk to our children about the meaning of consent, sex, and to speak up if they feel uncomfortable or have been violated.

Society tends to shame the victim of a sexual abuse case.
Society tends to shame the victim of a sexual abuse case. They will claim the victim is lying or seeking something. Victims are less likely to come forward because of this.

Creating Hostility & Distrust

Dr. Jody Adewale states “people who stand up and say ‘I’ve been victimized, I’ve been sexually abused,’ we as a society tend to beat it with skepticism, because there have been cases where people have lied.” So when the girls who did come forward were shamed and not believed. Why would any other girls want to come forward, only to endure such hate and shame towards them?

What is most hurtful about all of this is that young kids who are being abused by their uncle, family member, or close friend of the family are afraid to come forward. They watch these girls who were abused by R. Kelly be shamed and think “if they ridicule these girls and don’t believe them, who is going to believe me?” They are less likely to come forward when society victim shames the girls who did endure such abuse.

Cofounder of #MuteRKelly Oronike Odeleye stated “You have this powerful person that is beloved in the African American community, and then you have a victim that nobody cares about. The greater society perpetuates stereotypes about black women that internally you start to believe. We will believe it if it’s a convenient excuse not to have to deal with the reality of R. Kelly and how we have been supporting and enabling him for decades.” This not only happens with R. Kelly, but other people of power such as the priests of the Catholic church, and Larry Nassar, the gymnastics national team physician, who were molesting young kids. “Unfortunately, in the case of the Catholic Church or the organizations that employed the gymnastics physician Dr. Larry Nassar, and Penn State’s Jerry Sandusky, there was an institutional directive to ignore the abuse, shield the abuser, and disenfranchise the victims. The power and prestige of maintaining the image of these institutions outweighed their duty to keep the public safe from the predators they protected,” stated Jennifer Poehler.

So Why Now?

As a mother, I became more aware of the things happening and take it all into perspective. I see these predators for what they are- monsters. I began to empathize more with the victims, not because I cared any less before, but because I worry more now that I have a child of my own. I began to fear what could happen to my kids. It affected me more. The same goes for these victims who endured abuse by these predators. These young girls were 14-18 years old that were abused by R. Kelly. They were young impressionable girls who thought this was in some sense normal. It started with R. Kelly taking interest in them, to then slowly controlling them to the point they had to knock on doors before entering, asking to eat and use the bathroom, and even making them have sex with other people. For some, he took their virginity, and they were not experienced sexually. They thought this is what they had to do.

These victims are now adults with children of their own. They grew to be more aware, and are able to speak about what happened. Having children of their own, realizing it was all not okay, and doing what they have to do to protect their kids from ever going through it is their drive. They now have their own reasons for coming forward that are bigger than just their stories, it is about protecting future generations from the same fate.  They want to talk about the abuse, explain what to look for so the predators can not do it anymore to anyone else, and for young girls to hear these stories and know they are not alone. Victims speak up because want others to know the signs, to say no, to walk away, and to come forward to get the help they need.

Thanks to the movement #MeToo, women and victims feel more empowerd to come forward
Thanks to the movement #MeToo, women and victims feel more empowerd to come forward, talk about their stories, raise awareness, and seek justice.

Poehler states “Now more than ever, there is greater societal attention focused on believing sexual violence and abuse survivors. These survivors are finding each other and supporting each other in making sure we hear their stories. There is strength in numbers and we see that in the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. Society is becoming more tuned into the issues surrounding consent, domestic violence, and sexual violence. More states are adapting mandated reporter requirements, which leads to an increase of reporting child abuse and neglect. We have a very long way to go before these issues fully receive the urgent attention they are due, but progress is measured in how often we believe survivors when they disclose. Sexual violence is vastly underreported and rarely falsely reported. Survivors have much to lose and little to gain when they take their stories public, such as the cases of Anita Hill and Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford.” These two women were the survivors who spoke out against the then-Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Thanks to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, it has given women the ability to speak up without fear. The ability to empower women to talk without shame, and more importantly with support.

Hearing how these girls were violated and abused left me feeling powerless and heartbroken. I think that is important for everyone to listen to the victim’s stories. Hear them, empathize with them, and encourage them to talk about it. We shouldn’t turn a blind eye to what these predators are doing, and brush it off. The victims deserve more than that, especially after what they endured. The victims at least deserve our respect, our voice, and our sympathy. It makes me proud to see the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements embrace the victims, and help them not only speak out, but seek justice. I think everyone should do the same for these victims, and most importantly to listen to them and at least try to understand what they went through.

If you or someone you know is being sexually abused, speak up. It is the first process for healing, and for justice. As for parents, it is extremely important to speak to your children about sexual education. Talk to them about their private parts, the meaning of consent, and build a strong relationship with them. This way we can provide them the knowledge necessary to protect and empower them.