by Comprehensive Staff
High profile disclosures of rape in other communities, however old and seemingly far away, because of the ensuing media attention, affect us right here in Yakima.
Sexual violence, rape, molestation, child sexual abuse, sexual harassment, gang rape, commercial sexual exploitation; is the topic in the news, around the table, in the office. Everyone has an opinion about the allegations, the offender and the victim. Accused rapists include coaches, celebrities, priests, professionals, neighbors, strangers and family members. The accused and those who know them, are obviously affected but what about the rest of us?
Disclosing an act of rape affects the victim. They need support. Victims fare better when support of family, friends, and law enforcement are in place. As advocates, we know the saying “Break the Silence, End Sexual Violence.” This saying instructs the victim to speak of an assault but it also asks that the community listen and accept what they are hearing. That, if done properly, speaking up and our response can actually end sexual violence! In this exchange, telling and listening affects both the individual and the community. Those speaking out for the first time listen for the response of those close to them, the legal system and the community. They hear the understanding and they hear the blame. Others who have never spoken the words; rape, incest, etc., are also listening; deciding if it is safe to speak or remain silent.
The community struggles when a rapist falls from grace; much in the way a family struggles should they have this uninvited issue to deal with. We lose a hero; a symbol of goodness. We have to decide what to believe. How do we love the person and deplore the act? And finally; the culture changes when rape victims speak out. We get used to hearing that rape happens. It happens to men, women and children. It happens to involve people we are invested in, don’t want to think they could do such a thing; to rape. If Breaking the Silence helps the victim, it helps the community, the culture. Through their voice, we are given a chance to support those who might have stayed silent; suffering with a shame that isn’t theirs to hold. Together we can ease the burden. As a community we can support the person and use the knowledge to change the culture to say that; rape is not acceptable and that given the choice, we will believe, support and protect. Aspen knows how to support victims of rape. We know how to support the community and culture that says No More Rape!