#WeToo: Including Our Sisters in The Conversation About Sexual Assault
This article contains references to sexual assault that could be triggering for some readers.
Ten years before Actress Alyssa Milano tweeted, alongside a picture, “if you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too…,’” activist Tarana Burke, a Black woman, created the “Me Too” movement. While working at a youth camp in 1997, a 13-year old girl confided to Burke that she had been sexually assaulted. Unable to respond, Burke was inspired to advocate for sexual assault survivors, regretting that she did not confess “me too,” to the young girl. 10 years later in 2007, Burke founded Just Be Inc., a youth organization focused on the health, well-being, and wholeness of girls of color. Through this organization, Burke launched the Me Too movement to inform sexual assault survivors that they were not alone.
When Milano’s tweet went viral in 2017, it was building on the work that Tarana and so many other brave women have done by coming forward and speaking the truth about sexual assault. #MeToo has since taken the world by storm, moving from Burke’s hands to the mainstream.
Black women are disproportionately affected by sexual violence. 18% of African American women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. This number underscores the sexual assault epidemic among Black women, as this pervasive issue often goes unreported. Many critics argue that Black women have been largely left out of the #MeToo conversation, indicating a large absence of adequate resources and advocates for women of color who experience sexual violence.
As a part of your sister circle, we want you to know that if you have experienced sexual assault, you are not alone. Here are a few guiding steps you can take to begin your healing.
- Call a hotline: Once you are in a safe space, you can reach out to one of the many hotline services available to women who have been sexually assaulted. You will be connected with a local trained sexual assault service provider in your area. They will direct you to a local health facility that can provide you with the appropriate medical care during this tough time.
- RAINN: (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800-650-HOPE or online.rainn.org) in partnership with more than 1,000 local sexual assault service providers across the country and operates the DoD Safe Helpline for the Department of Defense. RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help survivors, and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice. Recognize that sexual assault does not discriminate. Learn More
- Safe Horizon: Safe Horizon hotline is a free and confidential hotline that operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for domestic abuse and sexual violence survivors. The people who answer the hotline offer personalized support, provide information and resources in your community, and connect you with accessible programs and services. For help with rape and sexual assault call 1-800-621-HOPE (4673). Learn More
- Seek medical care: In the immediate aftermath of sexual assault, you can undergo an examination to collect any evidence left behind after the assault. A health provider will conduct a four- to six-hour examination to preserve the evidence in a collection kit commonly referred to as a rape kit. To find out more information click here. Other resources include:
- Planned Parenthood: Pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are potential results of sexual assault so medical care is extremely important. You can go to your nearest Planned Parenthood health center for emergency contraception (within 5 days) and STI testing. Learn More
- Peace Over Violence: The Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) at Peace Over Violence is a survivor-centered program that is dedicated to providing a team approach to respond to sexual assaults in your community. The SART team consists of a sexual assault forensic examiner, law enforcement officer, crisis counselor, and legal aid to provide the highest level of care for survivors. SART also has designated medical centers where trained personnel can conduct a Sexual Assault Forensic Medica Exam with state-of-the-art equipment for evidence collection. Learn More
- Lean on someone you can trust: Dealing with the aftermath of sexual violence can be devastating. Telling someone you have been sexually assaulted is a very difficult thing to do. Consider reaching out to a trusted friend, family member, or counselor for support. Giving voice to your experience will be a step to becoming a survivor. You do not have to go through this alone.
- Consider a therapist: Do not be ashamed of seeking help from a mental health professional. Working with a therapist after experiencing sexual assault can help you deal with some of the challenges you may be facing and navigate your feelings. Click here to find out more information on how therapy can help you. Other resources include:
- YWCA: The YWCA sexual assault program seeks to improve the quality of life for sexual assault survivors through supportive services that are in a safe and nonjudgemental atmosphere. YWCA provides individual counseling, group counseling, and Healing Art services. Services are provided for those 12 years of age and up at three different program locations: Compton, South Los Angeles, and South Bay/Long Beach. Learn More
- Haven: Haven is Oakland County’s only comprehensive program for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. The non-residential counseling program has specially trained counselors that provide mental health services to individuals of all ages who have experienced domestic and sexual assault. The counselors are specially trained to address safety needs and concerns of sexual assault survivors. Learn More
- Therapy for Black Girls: Therapy for Black Girls is an online resource dedicated to encouraging mental wellness of Black women and girls. The Therapy for Black Girls therapist directly provides a listing Black women of mental health across the country who provide high quality and culturally competent counseling service to Black women and girls. Learn More
- Locate a support group: Not into therapy? Consider joining a support group for sexual assault survivors. Support groups can help you feel less isolated and alone. They can also provide valuable information on how to best cope with your experience and work towards healing. To find a supportive network near you, click here. Other resources include:
- National Sexual Violence Resource Center: NSVRC is a leading organization in providing information and tools to prevent, respond, and recover from sexual assault. NSVRC offers a supportive database for survivors to seek help including support groups. Learn More
- Become an advocate: From victim to survivor, you can fight against sexual assault with your sisters! Empowering others through experience and understanding can be a significant part of your healing. Resources include:
- Black Women For Wellness: Black Women For Wellness is a multi-generational, community-based organization in Los Angeles that is committed to improving the health and well-being of Black women and girls through the accessible health education, awareness, empowerment and advocacy opportunities and activities. Learn More
- National Organization of Sister of Color Ending Sexual Assault: SCESA is an advocacy organization of women of color dedicated to supporting and enhancing the leadership of women of color through training, technical assistance, and policy advocacy. Learn More
If you’re a survivor, know that you are not alone. If you or anyone you know is in need of support, we encourage you to explore the resources listed above to chart a path to healing.