It’s that time of year again. In a state that barely has real seasons, trees actually start to change color, and the temperature drops below 80 — it’s finally October. For students, that means midterms are right around the corner. For parents, it’s time to start thinking about trick or treating. For everyone in between, pumpkin-flavored delicacies emerge to spice up every meal of the day.
We often forget that those who experience psychological or emotional abuse, sexual assault, and financial abuse all relationships — not just marriages and heterosexual relationships — are victims of domestic violence as well.
Relationship violence is based in one partner’s desire to exercise control over another partner, and that control can be realized using a variety of tactics of manipulation and abuse. These tactics often involve isolating the victim from their family and friends, working to lower their self-esteem, and coercing them to do things they don’t want to do.
At the Orange County Rape Crisis Center (OCRCC), we spend a lot of time talking about sexual violence because it’s our job! For others, these conversations may not come so easily. Sexual violence is an uncomfortable and deeply personal topic, and talking about your experience can feel invasive. For many people, though, talking about their experience is exactly what is needed to move forward in the healing process. The Center offers a 24-Hour Help Line (also called a crisis line or hotline) to provide an anonymous, confidential space for these conversations. Here are 7 questions that might help you in deciding whether to call the help line for support.
1. I’m not sure if I this is the right place to talk about my situation. Should I call the help line?
If you have any concerns about unwanted sexual attention or experiences, absolutely call the help line. Even if you aren’t sure if what happened to you would be considered “sexual violence” — call us. If we’re not the best resource for what you are personally experiencing, we can help point you in the right direction. Sexual violence can be hard to talk about and nobody should have to sit alone in an uncertain situation. People can call our help line anytime, immediately after experiencing trauma or even years later. We provide support and resources for survivors, their loved ones, and professionals who support them.
2. I don’t know who I’m talking to. Who is on the other end of the line?
The folks who answer our help line are known as Companions. They have had extensive training on sexual assault, crisis counseling, and community resources so that they can provide a safe space to listen compassionately and confidentially to your concerns and to offer referrals for further assistance.
While growing up in a rape culture, women are constantly told to follow the “rules” to ensure their safety. This list dictates what women should wear (nothing too short), what they consume (no drinks you didn’t prepare yourself), and even how they commute (never alone, never at night, and never in a “bad part of town”). Not only do these rules perpetuate a series of rape myths, they also result in victim-blaming.
Victim-blaming is a pervasive part of the trauma many survivors experience. Too often when survivors disclose, they are met with a checklist of questions, all centered on their actions instead of the perpetrator’s. Rather than focusing on the inappropriate and illegal conduct of the perpetrator, many will blame the victim for not adhering to the prescribed list of rules. The notion that any “disobedience” of the guidelines could result in or justify sexual assault is not only incorrect but it also discourages survivors from coming forward about their experience.
Victim-blaming occurs for many reasons. Some of it is rooted in notions around masculinity (“boys will be boys”), some of it in a general disregard for women’s bodies, and some of it comes from fear. Sometimes, people resort to victim-blaming to as an attempt to maintain an illusion of their own safety from sexual assault. In this case, it is easier to police the list of rules and insist that following them will prevent assault than to acknowledge the scary truth that rape can happen regardless of what the survivor does or does not do. But rape happens because of rapists—not the length of a hemline, or the amount of alcohol consumed. When people victim-blame, they distance themselves from the victim and keep alive the myth that the responsibility to prevent rape lies on the assaulted, not the perpetrator.
Sexual violence is a community issue that can be prevented! Bystander intervention is one way that all community members can use their problem solving skills and creativity to positively impact the lives of their friends, neighbors, and loved ones.
What is a bystander?
A bystander is a person who is present during a potentially risky or dangerous situation and does nothing to stop it. They are not involved directly in the situation themselves.
What is the bystander approach?
The bystander approach offers practical strategies for addressing a problem when you see warning signs that may lead to violence. When you’ve had the chance to think through how you might handle a situation and you feel a sense of responsibility towards solving the problem, you are more likely to intervene safely.
Some common steps that you may walk through as a bystander include (1) observing a problem, (2) assessing the situation, (3) taking action to intervene, and (4) following up with the people involved. One way to follow up may be to call the Center’s help line for assistance.
Now that Black Friday and Cyber Monday have passed, it’s time for Giving Tuesday! Can you imagine how many people we could help if we all donated the money we saved from those amazing shopping deals? Can you imagine how many people could find help, hope, and healing? ‘Tis the season to give back!
The Center relies on support from our community throughout the year, and the holiday season is no different. Survivors need support every day, and that’s why our 24-Hour Help Line never closes. Even on Christmas Day.
So how can you help? Read below for a few ideas.
Donate now! We always need help filling in the holes in our budget. And now’s the perfect time to give — get in your end-of-year donation so you can claim your 2012 taxes. Or, consider making a monthly gift. You can sign up to donate each month from your credit card — even a small amount will be extremely helpful since your consistent giving helps us balance our budget during the times of year that donations are low.
When we ask kids about good touches, they talk about hugs, holding hands, and high fives. They often draw pictures showing how happy a good touch can make them.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of our education program to prevent child abuse in Orange County! Through Safe Touch, we have taught countless children how to stay safe and healthy. Research shows that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will suffer sexual abuse before turning eighteen. We’re working hard to combat this grim statistic, reaching 10,000 young people and adults every year through our education programs.
In honor of our 30th anniversary, please join our #30for30 Campaign! For $30 a month – just a dollar a day – you can support our life-changing education program. You can make sure the children in our community don’t have to keep secrets that hurt them. Help us inspire more drawings like this one, full of smiles and Safe Touches.
It’s simple! On our donation page, click “I would like to make a recurring gift,” and enter the amount of your monthly gift in the box underneath. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or comments.
Office Address: 1506 East Franklin St. Suite 200 Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Mailing Address: P. O. Box 4722 Chapel Hill, NC 27515