Growing exposure to sexual assault stories has been met with support and opposition. A wave of awareness is crashing over and slowly eroding the years of cover up to expose and treat the continual and critical issue of sexual assault and abuse.
Issues of sexual assault are addressed using platforms like the Golden Globes, but one of the most, if not, the most important platform in this day and age to extend support for this movement is social media. Social media apps like Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Tumblr and Facebook are essential to this movement because they enable everyone, from the president of the United States to a high school student, to share their thoughts, opinions and experiences in the same way.
There are many ways to advocate for and support survivors of sexual assault and abuse throughout movements such as “#metoo” and “Time’s Up.” Here’s some of the ways to help survivors share their experiences or non-survivors extend support to survivors if they want to help.
First, if you are a survivor, do not be afraid to share your personal experiences, but only if you are comfortable with doing so and think it will help you heal.
To non-survivors, do not push someone to share their story if they are not comfortable doing so.
Kristin Moore, Feminist Coalition sponsor, said, “We can encourage them to feel safe enough to tell their stories if they want to, but it’s not for us to judge if the person is not in a place where they are ready or want to do that. So, pressuring all survivors to join the movement or be vocal about it一that’s something that has to come on their own terms within their own healing process. Use it as a platform to support survivors when they are ready to tell their stories, not to judge those who aren’t ready.”
There are also ways for non-survivors to support survivors. One is to send out messages that may be indirect, but are meaningful and important for a survivor to hear. According to YWCA representative, Christina Meneses, essential messages for rape and other sexual assault survivors to receive include: “I’m sorry this happened. It’s not your fault. You don’t have to go through this alone. You didn’t deserve this.”
Additionally, an effective way to send messages of support to survivors is to intervene as a bystander when something insensitive is said. This is a form of bystander intervention. Kelsey Burns, crisis advocate at Safe Connections, says, “If you hear someone make a rape joke, or if you hear someone question folks that are coming forward, you can do a basic bystander intervention of (saying things like), ‘I don’t think that’s funny’ or just not laughing… That goes a long way because then when someone you do know will be affected by this, they’re much more likely to come forward.”
Lastly, social media is a global communication system where someone can contact a person or group that they might not be able to reach otherwise.
Many people in need may not be aware of the different ways they can contact an organization. The most prominent and accessible way is to call an emergency hotline. Regional, national and global organizations have emergency numbers for people who are in need of assistance or information pertaining to sexual assault.
For example, the organization YWCA, dedicated to eliminating racism and empowering women has a Rape Crisis Line at 314-531-7273 for the local St. Louis area.
Therefore, another way to extend support and help is to share the phone number, address, and other information about these organizations on social media. Someone who needs this information might see it at the right time, and otherwise people will know where they can go back and find it.
Overall, there are many ways to advocate for, support, and encourage survivors of sexual assault through social media and in everyday situations, whether you are a survivor or not.
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