by Samantha Bouressa, Program Supervisor, Family Services Sexual Assault Center
It’s been more than a year since a seemingly simple hashtag triggered an avalanche of accusations against powerful men. While the #MeToo Movement has given strength and courage for many survivors to share their stories, we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg with the majority of the conversations focused on misuse of power and sexual harassment in the workplace.
October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month, so it seems appropriate to share some information about one form of sexual assault that has failed to gain any media attention. One quarter of all sexual assaults are committed by a current or former intimate partner. Abusers use sexual violence to intimidate, control and demean their partners. Nearly half of women who are in an abusive relationship will also be sexually assaulted.
Sexual assault is the most underreported crime – regardless of the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator. Victims are often embarrassed, blame themselves for what happened, and fear they won’t be believed. It can be even more challenging for a victim of intimate partner sexual violence, or marital rape, to come forward. The victim may be concerned for their safety or the safety of their children. They may still have strong feelings for their partner and not be ready to leave the relationship. Many victims do not consider what is happening to them to be sexual assault. Being married to a person does not give you ownership over another person’s body.
The #MeToo Movement is helping survivors everywhere see that what happened to them is not OK, that they are not alone, and that they don’t have to keep the abuse a secret anymore. Since last October, the National Sexual Assault Hotline operated by the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), has seen a 30 percent increase in calls. The Sexual Assault Center, serving Door, Brown, Marinette and Oconto counties, has also seen an increase in calls and more victims coming in for free and confidential services. An advocate is available 24/7 at 920.746.8996 and callers can choose to remain anonymous.
The Sexual Assault Center is actively seeking volunteer advocates to assist with the increased number of victims reaching out for services. Please call Samantha at 920.436.4360 ext. 1287 to learn about how you can help survivors in our community.
This article is brought to you in part by the Door County Coordinated Community Response (CCR) to Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Teams and the Door County Elder and Adult-at-Risk Interdisciplinary Team.