It’s so encouraging to see Jada Pinkett Smith, a celebrity, rally around a young lady who has become the center of a sexual assault case and social media madness. What’s even more heartening is: Despite the great amount of exposure, that 16-year old victim, also Jada, had the courage to come forward to share her image on her own terms.
What a courageous act! Jada, the victim, needs to be commended for taking a step towards holding those she believes are responsible for her assault and for taking a step towards her journey to heal. It’s my hope she gets the support she needs and justice is served.
Rather than focus attention on those alleged to have committed a crime against a minor and those who made the choice to exploit such a heinous act through social media (because those are perhaps legal matters), this space is given to all victims of sexual assault. This includes those who are not able to step outside of the shadows because of trauma (shock, distress, etc.), the fear of harm and/or retaliation (for oneself and those closest to them), the threat of violence (because they told and perpetrators know where they live), blame and negative attention that people unwisely put on the victim and not where it needs to be (on the perpetrators), and/or similar reasons. To the victims:
- I’m sorry for your experience.
- You are not alone.
- It's not your fault.
- You did not deserve what happened.
- I hope you get the help and support you need and deserve.
- There is help and hope out there.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes sexual violence as a sexual activity where consent is not obtained or freely given. Sexual violence is purposeful, violent behavior committed by perpetrators. Although statistically the vast majority of sexual assault victims are girls and women, victims can be of any race/ethnicity, gender, religion, or socioeconomic status.
Those who commit this violent behavior, the perpetrators, may accomplish the sexual violence by making threats, through deceit, through the use of power or authority, or similar means.
There are several types of sexual violence, including sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape, sexual abuse, and incest – and not necessarily in that order.
Putting definitions to the side (because there is so much more education that needs to be provided to young men and women, and not currently enough space), the message victims need to hear, and it’s worth repeating: there is help out there.
St. Louis, Missouri has some excellent agencies available to help those affected by sexual violence/assault, and Safe Connections is one. For more information visit: http://safeconnections.org/
You can also visit one of the suggested links below.