It was so encouraging to hear Jada Pinkett Smith, a celebrity parent with teens, rally around a young lady (victim) who became 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 named Jada, had the courage to come forward to share her image on her own terms. How courageous! Jada, the victim, needed to be commended for taking a step towards holding those responsible for her assault accountable. She also took a huge step on her journey to heal. Many are hopeful that she gets the support she needs and justice takes it true course.
Rather than focus 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 legal matters), this space is given to all victims and survivors of sexual assault - and domestic violence. This includes those who are not able to speak out publicly because of trauma, fear of harm/retaliation, blame/negative attention people unwisely put on them, and/or similar reasons. So to all victims and survivors:
- 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 these violent acts, the perpetrators/abusers, 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. Domestic violence, although different, often crosses the path of sexual assault. Putting definitions to the side, because there is so much more education that needs to be provided to young men and women (and adults), the message victims need to hear often: There is help out there:
- The National Sexual Assault Hotline (RAINN)
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline
- The National Human Trafficking Hotline (Polaris)
- GLBT National Help Center
- Various Teen Lines (Safe Teens)
- Safety Planning (and what to take if you're planning to escape)
- Article - "Suicide: Teen answers may vary"
- Various Agencies in St. Louis, Missouri (e.g., sexual assault/domestic violence shelters; homeless, mental health, at-risk youth organizations and more)
Last updated: June 8, 2015