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This Is Our Moment

Friends of the Sexual Assault Resource Center,

This is our moment.

Our national conversation on sexual assault has been galvanized by the Kavanaugh hearings, the Cosby verdict, and the #MeToo movement. More than ever, people are talking about trauma, about consent and sexual health and wellness, and about how we can support survivors and prevent sexual assault so that, one day, no one will ever again endure the trauma of sexual assault. This national conversation is having an effect locally: the day of the Kavanaugh hearings, just one week ago, SARC saw a 166% increase in calls to our crisis line and a 400% increase in requests for referrals to case management.  You may have seen our new Executive Director, Amy Beard, speaking about this dramatic rise in demand on local media, including KATU, KOIN, and KPTV.

SARC is here for all survivors, and we are so proud of the work we do and so grateful to supporters like you who have seen the need for and the value of our work. You have generously supported us in the past with financial donations, volunteer hours, and simply spreading the word about SARC’s services to those who may need us or who want to work with us. With this dramatic rise in requests for services, SARC needs your help now more than ever. Your contribution today will help us expand our ability to provide the many services SARC provides to our community: 24/7/365 crisis intervention via telephone, in-person emergency support at hospitals and law enforcement agencies, ongoing case management services, support groups, one-on-one counseling, and sexual assault prevention education training to schools in the tri-county area.

Will you seize this moment and help fund these much-needed services to the members of your community who are reaching out to SARC for help? Please, take a stand for survivors  of sexual assault and donate to SARC today. Donate via Paypal, credit, or debit card here.

Thank you for your continued support of SARC, of survivors of sexual assault, and of our community.

Share Your Art

Share Your Art! Envianos tu arte!

(Desplaza hacia abajo para instrucciones en español)

Submissions are open for the 3rd edition of Reclaim//Reclama!

Guidelines & Prompts

Reclaim//Reclama is an art magazine featuring the works of people across Oregon who have experienced sexual violence. SARC publishes this magazine in April to honor Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Reclaim//Reclama exists to highlight people whose stories and existences are silenced and underrepresented in discussions about sexual assault. Sexual violence includes many different experiences, both physical and non-physical. Channeling trauma into art can be a coping skill, healing practice, therapeutic, empowering, and more. Reclaim//Reclama is here to give space for that art.

Interested in Submitting?

  • 1-2 submissions per person
  • ~1,200 word limit for short stories/prose
  • Submissions must include three easy things
    • Title of the work (or “untitled”)
    • How we should list you as the artist/author (first name, initials, full name, anonymous, etc.)
    • Contact information for you – email or phone, so we can contact you with any questions and information about the publication
  • Submissions must be emailed to SAAM@sarcoregon.org or mailed to our office by March 1, 2020:
    SAAM Submissions
    Sexual Assault Resource Center
    4900 SW Griffith Drive, Suite 100
    Beaverton, OR 97005

Submissions that contain specific depictions of sexual violence will also be marked at the top of the page to alert readers that there may be explicit content on that page. SARC will notify you if any of your submissions will have this mark.

Not sure what to create? Here are some optional prompts!

• My voice has power
• My experience matters
• My message to people who have experienced sexual violence
• My message to the world
• I am [enough/strong/resilient]…
• How I practice consent every day
• It is okay to freeze
• Healing is not linear
• My go-to self-care
• Healing can feel like…
• Words I never said
• A love letter to your body
• A letter of compassion to a survivor
• A day in my shoes
• What does a culture of consent look like, feel like, sound like, taste like, smell like?
• What does a world that believes survivors look like, feel like, sound like, taste like, smell like?
• Create art about any myths spread about sexual violence and/or sexual trauma
• Create art that represents your safe space – it can be real or imagined


Inscripciones abiertas para la tercera edición de Reclaim//Reclama!

Pautas e indicaciones 

Reclaim//Reclama es una revista de arte que reúne el trabajo de muchas personas a lo largo del Estado de Oregón, de quienes han experimentado agresión sexual en algún momento de sus vidas. SARC publica esta revista en abril en conmemoración del mes de la concientización sobre el Asalto Sexual.

Reclaim//Reclama existe para realzar las historias vividas por aquellas personas que permanecen en silencio y no son debidamente representadas en discusiones relacionadas con el asalto sexual. Agresión sexual incluye diferentes experiencias y situaciones físicas y no físicas. Canalizar el trauma en arte puede ser una estrategia de afrontamiento, técnica curativa, terapéutica, empoderamiento y más. Reclaim//Reclama está aquí para dar espacio a ese valioso tipo de arte.

Te interesa participar? Aquí te explicamos cómo:

  • 1-2 obras de arte suscritas por persona
  • 1.200 palabras por historias cortas o prosas Todas las Inscripciones deben incluir tres cosas básicas:
    • Título del trabajo (o “Sin Título”)
    • Cómo debemos enlistar el nombre del autor/artista ( Primer Nombre, Iniciales, Nombre Completo, Anónimo, etc)
    • Información de contacto – Correo Electrónico o Numero de Teléfono, y así podremos contactarte por cualquier pregunta o información acerca la publicación de tu material artístico Las
  • Inscripciones deben ser enviadas a la dirección electrónica: SAAM@sarcoregon.org o por correo físico a nuestra oficina antes del 1ero de Marzo, 2020
    SAAM Inscripciones
    Sexual Assault Resource Center
    4900 SW Griffith Drive, Suite 100
    Beaverton, OR 97005

Inscripciones que contengan representación grafica serán marcadas al inicio de la página para alertar lectores que puede que el contenido de las mismas sea explicito. SARC te hará saber si cualquiera de tus trabajos artísticos tendrá esta advertencia

Aquí tienes algunas sugerencias de qué puedes crear!

• Mi voz tiene poder
• Mi experiencia importa
• Mi mensaje a personas que han vivido violencia sexual
• Mi mensaje al mundo
• Yo soy [Suficiente/Fuerte/resilente]…
• Yo practico consentimiento todos los días
• No “reaccionar” {gritar/ golpear/correr/ luchar} durante el abuso sexual no es tu culpa.
• La curación no es lineal
• Lo que me gusta hacer para sentirme mejor cuando no lo estoy
• La sanación se puede sentir como…
• Palabras que nunca se dijeron
• Una carta de amor a tu cuerpo
• Una carta compasiva a alguien que experimentó violencia sexual
• Un día en mis zapatos
• Cómo luce la cultura del consentimiento, Cómo se siente, cómo suena, cómo sabe o cómo huele?
• Cómo cree el mundo que las personas que han experimentado violencia sexual, lucen, sienten, suenan, saben, huelen?
• Crea arte sobre cualquier mito y corre la voz acerca de violencia sexual o trauma sexual
• Crea arte que represente un lugar seguro para ti, puede ser un lugar real o imaginario

Call for Submissions – ¡Se Solicita su Arte!

Share your experience, your resilience, your strength, your story.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and SARC is publishing the 2nd edition of Reclaim//Reclama.

What is Reclaim//Reclama?

Reclaim//Reclama is an art magazine of stories, poems, prose, visual art, photography, and other types of creative expression made by people across Oregon who have been impacted by sexual violence.

Sexual violence can include many different experiences. Reclaim//Reclama is a publication that provides a platform for people whose stories and existences are often silenced or underrepresented in discussions around sexual violence. Expressions of trauma and trauma recovery through various forms of art can be deeply meaningful to both the artists who create these works, as well as people who see, read, hear and experience them.

Donations from the publication will be used to thank the artists and support SARC’s client services programs.

How do I submit my art?

We are currently collecting submissions for the second edition of Reclaim//Reclama, to be published during Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April 2019.

If you have a piece you want published, please submit through the following options:

Email: SAAM@sarcoregon.org

Mail submission physically to:
SAAM Submission
Sexual Assault Resource Center
4900 SW Griffith Drive, Suite 100
Beaverton OR, 97005

Submission Guidelines

• Submissions can be anonymous, include a first name, last name, or a fake name.
• Submissions must include how you want to be listed as the artist.
• Submissions must include a title, or how you would like us to list your piece.
• We encourage submissions in all languages.
• We encourage submission from all identities.
• 1-2 submissions per person.
• SARC staff review all submissions and will follow up with artists with any questions.

Submission deadline (EXTENDED): April 12th

Showcase information: To celebrate the release of Reclaim//Reclama in April 2019, SARC will host a showcase for artists who would like to come read or present their work, as well as an open mic for attendees. More information on the date, time, and location of the showcase will be posted as we finalize those details.

We are excited and honored to experience the art you choose to share with us!


¡Se Solicita su Arte!

Comparte tu experiencia, tu resistencia, tu fortaleza, tu historia.

Abril es el Mes de Conciencia sobre el Acoso Sexual (Sexual Assault Awareness Month) y el Centro de Recursos para Acoso Sexual (the Sexual Assault Resource Center) está publicando la segunda edición de Reclaim//Reclama.

¿Qué es Reclaim//Reclama?

Reclaim//Reclama es una revista de arte de cuentos, poemas, prosa, arte visual, fotografía y otro tipos de medios creativos hechos por personas en todo Oregón quienes han sido impactados por la violencia sexual.

La violencia sexual puede incluir muchas diferentes experiencias. Reclaim//Reclama es una publicación que aporta una plataforma para gente cuyas historias y existencias son frecuentemente silenciadas o subrepresentadas en discusiones sobre violencia sexual. Expresiones de trauma y la recuperación del trauma a través de varias formas de arte pueden ser profundamente significativas tanto para los artistas que crean estas obras como para la gente que las ven, leen, escuchan y lo sienten.

Donaciones de la publicación se utilizarán para agradecer a los artistas y apoyar los programas de servicio a los clientes de SARC.

¿Cómo entrego mi arte?

Estamos actualmente recibiendo entregas para la segunda edición de Reclaim//Reclama, qué será publicada durante El Mes de Conciencia sobre el Acoso Sexual (Sexual Assault Awareness Month) en abril 2019.

Si tienes una obra que quieres publicar, favor de entregarlo a través de las siguientes opciones:

Correo electrónico: SAAM@sarcoregon.org

Envíe arte físicamente por correo a:

SAAM Submission
Sexual Assault Resource Center
4900 SW Griffith Drive, Suite 100
Beaverton OR, 97005

Reglas Generales para las Entregas de Arte

  • Entregas de arte pueden ser anónimos, incluir su primer nombre, apellido, o un nombre falso.
  • Entregas de arte tienen que incluir cómo desea que se le incluya como artista en la publicación.
  • Entregas de arte tienen que incluir un título, o cómo quiere que aparezca su obra en la publicación.
  • Alentamos entregas de arte en todos los idiomas.
  • Alentamos entregas de arte de todo tipos de identidades.
  • 1-2 entregas de arte por persona.
  • Empleados de SARC revisan todas las entregas de arte y harán seguimiento con los artistas con cualquier preguntas que tengan.

Fecha límite: 12 de Abril

Información sobre la Exhibición: Para celebrar el lanzamiento de Reclaim//Reclama en abril 2019, SARC presentará una exhibición para artistas que querrán asistir para leer o presentar su trabajo, al igual que tener un micrófono abierto (open mic) para el público presente. Se les dará más información sobre la fecha, el horario y la ubicación de la exhibición a medida que finalizemos esos detalles.

¡Tenemos mucha emoción al tener el gran honor de poder conocer el arte que elija compartir con nosotros/as!

Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday

In the midst of holiday hustle and bustle, it’s easy to forget how many people are trying to heal in the wake of sexual assault . . . or how little it takes for you to make a difference for someone in crisis. This October alone, SARC responded to 109 crisis calls from sexual assault survivors, and your donations helped provide hygiene kits, transportation to services, clothing, meals, and more to those who needed it. In a world as big as ours, with as much need as we see around us every day, it’s easy to wonder how one person can make a difference. This is how:

  • $5 provides a bus pass for a client to get to and from support group for a week
  • $25 provides an emergency hygiene bag and meal to a survivor in crisis working with a SARC case manager
  • $50 replaces the clothes the police collect from the survivor as evidence of the assault
  • $55 covers crisis line expenses for 24 hours
  • $175 funds the in-person dispatch hotline for one week
  • $375 pays for cell phone service for all SARC staff for one month
  • $900 pays for the services of a support group facilitator for one month
  • $1200 provides a survivor in need of safe housing with the application fee and first months’ rent on a new apartment
  • $1500 funds the crisis line for one month
  • $3000 pays the salary for one full-time case manager or one part-time mental health counselor for one month
  • $5000 covers the expenses of our prevention education program for one month. This program provides healthy relationship and anti-violence education to youth throughout the tri-county area with the goal and hope that, one day, no one will need the client support services SARC provides because we will be living in a safer, healthier society.

You have the power to make a difference. You have the power to help those who experience sexual assault navigate their paths to healing. Together, we can ensure every sexual assault survivor receives the support and care they need. Together, we can teach today’s youth how to create a safer tomorrow. With your help, together we can end sexual violence. Donate this Giving Tuesday through our Facebook page or via Paypal.

Spirit Mountain Community Fund

Last month SARC was honored to be awarded a significant grant from the Spirit Mountain Community Fund, which is the philanthropic arm of the Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde that operates Spirit Mountain Casino. The grant was to support our Prevention and Education Program led by our program manager, Jenna Harper. Jenna attended their ‘2nd Quarterly Check Presentation’ ceremony to be presented with a check. That’s right folks, this Community Fund awards grants every quarter and has a ceremony and presentation event for all their grantees. Since 1997, over 2,500 grants have been awarded which amounts to almost $78 Million.

The Spirit Mountain Community Fund’s focus is to improve the quality of life in Northwest Oregon through community investments that provide lasting benefits consistent with the Tribe’s culture and values.

We were blessed with a ceremony with their staff and trustees present and many of the other grantees in attendance for the award ceremony. Jenna even won a raffle prize of a handmade necklace! On that day the Community Fund awarded almost $800,000 to more than 30 non-profits in our area. Amazing!

This funding supports our Prevention Program so we can continue to teach our youth about healthy relationships and sexuality to combat sexual violence. The program is gaining momentum and we hope to keep growing it to reach as many more youth as possible.

If you know someone or encounter Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde members, or anyone from Spirit Mountain Casino, please thank them for all the giving they’re doing that is making a direct impact to our communities.

 

IMG_3415 2

 

We thank the Community Fund staff, the Board of Trustees, and the Tribal Council, with love and gratitude.

Creating a Culture of Consent

Read our volunteer, Frankie’s, take on the importance of consent below.

What is consent? Consent, in any situation, is a strong, enthusiastic YES, when NO is a viable option. Consent is mandatory during any sexual encounter with anyone, but consent is also necessary in every situation, not just sexual encounters. We must give and get consent in social environments, too. Just as you should not engage sexually with someone without consent, you should not hug someone, feed someone, make them tea, or do anything that they do not explicitly want you to do. While consent is usually discussed in terms of sexual experiences, it should be a key part of our culture as a whole.

One of our favorite videos to get the point across. Seen it?

The phrase “rape culture” is pervasive, and describes the reality of sexual violence and harassment, across a broad spectrum, experienced by millions every day. Working counter to this is “consent culture,” an ideal to work toward. It normalizes and popularizes consent, not limited to sexuality. Consent can be asked for and given every day in dozens of ways, through checking in, being verbally direct, offering options, and respecting people’s choices. Too often it is also often in dozens of ways as well. Attitudes of entitlement can often lead to people not consistently asking for consent, which can result in other people losing their autonomy and power. If we are entitled, we are less like to consider the needs, wellbeing, and desires of others. An entitled world becomes selfish and self-serving, not a community in which anyone wants to live.

Building a culture of consent can, and should, begin at a very young age. Some middle and high schools teach consent as a program or as part of a health class. However, high school is often a late start to introducing ideals about consent. By the time children have become young adults, they’ve been exposed to toxic norms about relationships, interacting with others, and entitlement for years. Teaching teenagers about consent is great, but earlier education has the ability to focus less on undoing unhealthy behaviors and more on raising youth on healthy norms from the start.

Consent is a lesson to teach early and often. It is also necessary to model consent as adults. When parents, relatives, family friends, and authority figures normalize consent, kids are more likely to be comfortable discussing consent and understanding what is meant by consent and consent culture. They can feel more confident holding their own personal boundaries, and more conscious about asking others for their preferences. Informed children become informed adults, and informed adults become informed role models, parents, mentors, and more. This is how we grow consent culture and eliminate ignorance.

Curious for more information? Here are additional resources:

Primer on consent from RAINN

How to talk to children about consent

Video and discussion questions to help talk to kids about consent

Self-Care: Exploring the Mind-Body Connection

When you feel at a loss of control over the circumstances in your life, it is common to be filled with self-doubt, anxiety, guilt, and a plethora of other draining emotions that hurt in more ways than one. Whether we are aware of it, pain takes on both mental and physical side effects. Muscle tightness, headaches, weight fluctuation, high blood pressure, and insomnia are just some side effects of persistent negative emotions–and since everybody is different, the symptoms may vary from person to person.

What is also true is that within all of us is the power to take control of how we cope with the circumstances life throws our way. And though we may always face hardship, the way in which we process it can help bring us closer to the health and happiness we all deserve.

What is mind-body medicine? Mind-body medicine is the practice of healing ourselves in both a mental and physical way based on the idea that every mental component has a physical component, and vice versa. And so, we can often address one by giving care and attention to the other!

Here are some suggestions of how to put mind-body healing into practice.


Breathing and Meditation

Have you ever thought about your breath? We all do it all day, every day, but rarely acknowledge the value of it. When we become aware of our breath, we become present in the moment, which benefits our whole self. Diaphragmatic breathing is a relaxation technique which is just breathing deeply from our lower bellies. While practicing diaphragmatic breathing, you can add visuals which help the mind and body to communicate and will help you reach a meditative state.

“Draw a Square”

Close your eyes, and begin to take a deep breath while counting to five in your head. While counting, imagine the first line of a square being drawn. Then hold your breath for two seconds at the end of the inhale. On the exhale, draw the second line. Continue this pattern until your square is complete.

Prefer visual aids? Here’s a video.

“Internal Body Images”

If you have an injury or are feeling pain in a certain place in your body, try closing your eyes and imagine that there is a warm light or warm colored light around the place in your body that is causing you pain. On your inhale, the light/color expands. On your exhale, it shrinks back. Imagine this light is healing. Imagine with each exhale that the pain is being washed away.

For more information on different types of meditation including, movement meditation, mantra meditation, and mindfulness meditation go here.


Journal Writing

This is an outlet known to be transpersonal psychology . That just means that the active awareness we have while journaling can lead to therapeutic self-discovery. By jotting down thoughts, whether they are random or focused, on a specific event or general feeling, we can gain insight and clarity. This can help us clear away overwhelming thoughts that run through our heads everyday and cause stress.

Journaling initiates communication between your mind and soul, providing feelings of catharsis which help us to express our emotions. Because of the calm feelings that accompany journal writing, our body responds positively.

Do you have a hard time getting started journaling? Here are some tips:

  1. Get a notebook that you will just use for journaling, and something to write with
  2. Find a quiet or calming environment
  3. Center yourself — try some breathing exercises from above
  4. Label your journal entries so you can refer to them later
  5. Don’t judge or censor yourself
  6. If structure helps you, try to write for five minutes a day, or build up how long you are writing for bit by bit

Art Therapy

Art therapy enables us to describe our feelings and thoughts in ways that words cannot. When we step back and allow ourselves to express, we may discover things about ourselves we may not have been able to access otherwise.

Here are some ideas that can help you to try out art therapy:

  1. Get some crayons, colored pencils, or pastels
  2. Never say you can’t draw! Art therapy isn’t about being an artist. It’s about expressing yourself
  3. Draw a picture of yourself
  4. Draw a picture of an area of yourself you feel needs attention; part of body, or feeling
  5. Draw an image of peace, a peaceful place, a place you would like to return to, or a place you’d like to go
  6. Draw how you feel in the moment
  7. Draw an image from a dream

Want to try a guided Art Therapy exercise?


Exercise and Nutrition

When we keep our bodies and minds healthy through exercise and nutrition, we lower stress levels, blood pressure, and we fight off possible long term effects of stress and trauma, like diabetes and heart disease. When we exercise, we benefit from the release of positive endorphins like dopamine and serotonin, also known as the happiness hormones. With summer coming, be sure to get outside. Walking, hiking, biking, and swimming are all wonderful activities which promote mind-body healing. Nutrition plays a large part in this as well! Be mindful of what you eat and keep in touch with the foods that make you feel good and give you energy vs. the foods that tire you out and lead to aches and irritability. What goes into your body is your fuel for living! Choose to live well

Chair yoga for people with injuries and disabilities.

TED-Ed video on food for mental health.


I hope you feel inspired by some of the ways you can promote healthy mind-body connection in your life. Not all of these suggestions will work for everyone. I encourage you to discover new and different approaches to see what fits best for your personality, body, and mind.

Disclaimer: This blog is does not provide medical advice. The suggestions above are based on research and the works of other people.

Additional Resources:

Seaward, Brian Luke. Managing Stress: Principles and Strategies for Health and Well-Being. Jones and Bartlett, 2014.

https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2008/03/sobering-look-at-mind-body-connection/

How Misconceptions About False Reporting Hurt Sexual Assault Survivors

Content warning: This blog includes descriptions of sexual assault reports.

Sexual assault cases are extremely difficult to investigate and prosecute in our existing criminal justice system. Reporting a sexual assault takes incredible courage and resilience. Despite this, sexual assault survivors are often the only victims of crimes who are treated as suspects. People who report sexual violence can face professional and personal repercussions, re-traumatization, disbelief, rejection, financial burdens, and physical, emotional, and mental discomfort. Lack of training in law enforcement often leads to misconceptions about crimes involving sexual assault and trauma, often leading to doubts about survivors’ stories. Many people both within and outside criminal justice fields assume that false reports are a regular occurrence.

We’ll attempt to break down those incorrect assumptions by discussing research around false reporting, and using SARC’s 40+ years of experience working with sexual assault survivors.

How many reports are false?

Multiple studies show that false reporting is very uncommon, and some demonstrate it may be even less common than older research suggests. The following information is compiled in an article by Kim Lonsway (2010). The Home Office in the United Kingdom found that only 4% of sexual assaults reported to law enforcement are suspected or found to be false. Research conducted in the United States and Europe show similar rates, between 2% and 6%. Recent U.S. studies by Dr. David Lisak support a false reporting rate of 2%, similar to findings by the Uniform Crime Report (UCR) done by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Even still, numbers from research cannot be taken at face value, as some studies use vague definitions for what constitutes a “false report.” The FBI’s UCR report has historically been one of the most common cited reference points for false reporting data in the United States, despite the flaws in the way it counts false reports.

“Unfounded,” “baseless,” “false” – What’s the difference?

The data in the UCR was provided by law enforcement agencies across the country. The report marks cases as ‘cleared’ in three ways: by arrest, by exception, and as unfounded. “Unfounded” sexual assault cases are not always the same as false reports. An “unfounded” case can be one of two things: a false report, or a baseless report. A “baseless” report is presumed truthful, but does not have all of the factors to charge as a crime. A “false” report is one that should be proved to be untrue through concrete evidence, not simply because of doubt, suspicion, or uncertainty from law enforcement or anyone else.

Baseless reports can indicate that investigators determined there was not enough evidence to pursue an investigation. For example, lack of forensic evidence, or difficulty concretely proving that an act was non-consensual. A baseless report can also indicate that the reported act of sexual violence did not meet the criteria for a criminal charge, such as having an element of “force.”

Why is this frustrating? In our experience working with survivors, most sexual assaults do not leave physical injuries, as coercion and manipulation are some of the most common tactics that offenders use, in lieu of overt force. Offenders often claim that the assault was a consensual sexual encounter, a claim difficult to disprove without concrete evidence. These characteristics of sexual violence, and many others, help explain how cases might be marked as unfounded without being false.

How does this complicate false reporting data? The UCR counts all reports marks as “unfounded” as false, whether they are baseless (meaning the assault likely still occurred) or actually proven to be untrue. This suggests that even the low false reporting numbers the UCR reports may be partially inflated.

What Makes a Report “Suspicious”?

What causes a professional, friend, or family member to doubt someone’s experience of sexual assault? Research laid out in the Lonsway article indicates that the most common characteristics that lead to people to think a report is false are delayed reporting, alcohol or drug use during the event, inconsistencies or omissions in statements, and/or if the survivor did not physically resist “enough.” In actuality, most sexual assault cases include one or more of these factors. In short, the reports that draw the most scrutiny are often the reports that are most likely to be true.

Let’s break down these elements of suspicion. Few survivors report right away. Just some of the reasons for this that we have heard from survivors include feelings of guilt, anxiety, fear, or shock, among others. Reporting is not always safe or accessible to everyone. Inconsistencies in survivors’ statements are common indicators of trauma, and the brain’s struggle to encode and recall memories of traumatic events. Additionally, survivors may initially omit pieces of their story if they fear they may face shame, victim-blaming, or other consequences. It is not uncommon, for example, that a teen may not want to be punished for drinking under age, or an adult may not want to get in trouble for use of illicit substances. Finally, the majority of survivors report some level of “freezing” or tonic immobility during their assault, meaning that their body froze in order to survive and cope with what was happening. Freezing is a very common instinctual response, and often leads to shame and doubt from investigators and others who question why survivors did not “fight back.”

In reality, persons filing false reports are actually less likely to admit to potentially illegal, embarrassing, or questionable behavior, such as drug or alcohol use. False reports are more likely to sound like a “stereotypical rape” — usually involving a stranger, with a weapon, outside, where the survivor fought back, sustained injuries, and reported immediately. Additionally, more often than not false reports did not name a suspect, debunking the assumption that reports frequently made out of malice in an attempt to malign the offender. False reporting may address a need the individual is lacking elsewhere, such as emotional support systems, feeling cared for, access to mental health resources, and much more.

Why Is It Important to Believe Survivors?

Obviously, there are many reasons to believe and trust survivors. Research on sexual assault perpetrators shows that the majority of perpetrators are serial offenders, or someone who has committed more than one act of sexual assault. The less accountable our institutions hold offenders, the more opportunities they afford offenders to cause harm to others.

Beyond this, is the harm that invalidation and blame can cause people who survive sexual trauma. Treating survivors with suspicion serves only to re-victimize them. Persons that come forward seeking help following a sexual assault should be given assistance and support, not mistrust and skepticism. When survivors are met with support and validation, it can lessen the burden of their trauma and improve their ability to move forward and begin to heal.

Some initiatives, like Start By Believing, aim to educate people on the impact of believing survivors from the very beginning. To address these issues in our community, SARC currently offers a half day and full day of training to law enforcement agencies in Washington County. Our goal is that through ongoing training and feedback, the institutions in our community can make reporting a more accessible and safe option for survivors who choose to do so.

If you are interested in offering training for your workplace or school, please contact us at sarc[at]sarcoregon.org or 503-626-9100.

 

Check out the resources below that Frankie, our intern, used to write this blog, and ask your local law enforcement agencies if they have received training on sexual assault response.

Overview on false reporting from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center: https://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/Publications_NSVRC_Overview_False-Reporting.pdf

More information on the difference between unfounded and baseless reports from End Violence Against Women International:

https://www.evawintl.org/Library/DocumentLibraryHandler.ashx?id=56

News Article from the United Kingdom on the realities of false reporting:

http://theconversation.com/heres-the-truth-about-false-accusations-of-sexual-violence-88049

More information on false reporting in Europe:

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1077801210387748?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori:rid:crossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub%3dpubmed

Most information for this article are drawn from this excellent piece by Kim Lonsway:

Lonsway, K. (2010). Trying to Move the Elephant in the Living Room: Responding to the Challenge of False Rape Reports. Symposium on False Allegations of Rape, 1356-1371. Retrieved May 15, 2018.http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1077801210387750

Image by startbelieving.org.

Media Review: Anatomy of Doubt

In 2016, before Tarana Burke’s Me Too movement gained national attention, popular podcast,  This American Life aired “Anatomy of Doubt.” In part of that podcast, they compared the experiences of two survivors of sexual assault. The first woman, Marie, was not believed by the people closest to her, law enforcement, and those in her community. The second woman, assaulted by the same offender in a different place, had a drastically different experience.

Three SARC volunteers, Jasmine, Anders, and Jessie, were interested in listening to the podcast, and answering some questions around its enduring significance. You can listen to the podcast here or read it here, and answer these same questions for yourself.

This podcast is from 2016 — how is it still relevant, or more relevant, today with the Me Too movement?

Jessie: As long as survivors have the courage to speak the truth about sexual violence, podcasts and articles like this will remains relevant and important.

Anders: I would say it is more relevant today, even.

Jasmine: Even though Marie’s experience is pretty different from the high profile cases we are hearing about in the media today (it was a stranger assault, it was reported right away, etc.), the way Marie was treated is how so many survivors associated with the #MeToo movement are also being treated.

The people closest to Marie don’t believe that she was assaulted, largely because they think that her trauma response is not “normal” behavior. They shun her and share their doubts with investigators. Now believing that Marie has lied to them, these investigators are “bullying” and “coercive” towards her, as described by another investigator who specializes in sex crimes. They go so far as to charge her for false reporting. And they stop investigating the assault.

By showing how Marie is mistreated after she publicly talks about the assault, this podcast addresses why many survivors of harassment and assault are hesitant to share their stories.

How did you hear biases or assumptions come up in the podcast? What impact did they have?

Anders: Marie’s friends thought it was weird that she would tell so many people about the assault. They thought it meant that she just wanted attention. Peggy thought Marie was covering up a sexual encounter turned bad.When an officer called Marie to come in, she asked if she was in trouble. He said in his experience, only guilty people/people hiding things ask that question. Just to name a few.

Jasmine: Sergeant Jeffrey Mason and Detective Jerry Rittgarn, the investigators for Marie’s case, incorrectly attribute significance to certain things that Marie says and does. For example, when Marie asks Mason if she is in trouble after he requests to speak with her at the police station, Mason begins to doubt Marie. He later says, “…in the 25 years in law enforcement, my experience has been people that ask that are usually in trouble.” By being overly reliant on his past experience, Mason does not consider Marie’s question in the context of her youth, trauma, and concern about being distrusted.

Jessie: The way we impress our personal biases onto others goes hand in hand with victim blaming. How would this investigation have gone if Peggy had not gone to the police to say she thought Marie was lying? Biases can alienate survivors, and create doubt.  In Marie’s story, doubt snowballed so out of control that it ended up poisoning the police’s perspective on the case. So much that they not only closed the case and ceased investigating a serial rapist, but also charged the victim with false reporting.

Why is it important for survivors to have support systems believe in them, or at least, suspend their disbelief?

Jessie: In order to come forward as a survivor, a lot of strength has to be harnessed. Strength like this can be nourished by loving and supportive people in our lives. Affirmative responses are a basic need.  As humans, we want to feel validated. Feeling blamed and ashamed of an incredibly traumatic event can make someone only feel worse.

Anders: Anytime someone is going through a traumatic experience it is only beneficial to have  friends and family support you. Marie could have had a completely different experience if she had a support system that believed in her.  In the case of Law Enforcement, we read about two officers going from treating Marie as a victim, to treating her as a criminal.

Jasmine: If survivors don’t have supportive friends and relatives, it can be difficult for them to cope with what has happened to them. This podcast also shows how disbelieving friends and relatives can amplify doubt in detectives’ minds and, thereby, compromise the investigation.

We all have the ability to foster safe and supportive environments for survivors to come forward. If you’ve experienced sexual assault and need support, you can always contact SARC’s 24-hour Support Line at 503-640-5311.

 

Image by Jennifer Heuer

Mental Health & Sexual Assault

Mental health and sexual assault are closely intertwined. Many people believe an assault is the main cause of trauma for a survivor. However, the assault itself if often just part of the overall ongoing trauma survivors experience.

Sexual assault is not a just a traumatic event; it is a traumatic experience. Trauma is cumulative. Trauma stems from not just the assault, but the aftermath as well. Social and institutional responses to sexual assault can inform how people who are sexually assaulted approach their path to recovery. Sometimes, survivors have great support systems ready and willing to offer assistance. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

A study conducted by Michigan State University examined the various micro- and macrosystems that affect survivors of sexual assault. Cabral, Campbell, and Dworkin state that, “sexual assault does not occur in social and cultural isolation.” Victim-blaming, slut-shaming, disbelief, and personal attacks all await people in the aftermath of their assaults. The same article also suggests that for some survivors, diagnoses like PTSD can feel limiting, because sexual assault trauma is more nuanced and expansive that a diagnosis alone can encapsulate. Part of the reason why is because rape culture is so expansive, in our media, our justice systems, our social interactions. Rape culture perpetuates a cycle of trauma for survivors of sexual assault, beyond what science alone can explain.

Social and societal responses to sexual assault can be as traumatic as the initial assault. According to the Michigan State study, up to half of survivors “meet diagnostic criteria for depression,” and up to 40% “experience generalized anxiety.” For survivors who don’t have strong support systems or ways to cope with their assault, these issues can be exacerbated. They can be worsened further by problems including, “rape-prone culture, institutionalized racism, cultural differences in responding to rape, and acceptance of rape myths.” Although these problems present a bleak picture of survivors’ experiences, there are ways to positively impact someone’s path of healing.

While the study found that social macrosystems tend to perpetuate rape culture, microsystems do not necessarily do the same. Support and care from people closest to the survivor can have a significant impact on the distress levels of the survivor, such as friends, family, advocates, and more. Sexual assault response centers, mental health services, and trauma-informed hospital staff, including sexual assault nurse examiners (SANEs) can also reduce the level or likelihood of post-assault depression and anxiety.

Taking the blame from survivors is of the utmost importance for these small support systems, because at every step of a survivor’s process there is an opportunity for other people and systems to blame and shame them. To move past pervasive rape culture, we must start by being trauma-informed and less doubtful of survivors. If we do not, we abandon survivors, and leave them to face mental health needs like anxiety and depression, among other needs, by themselves. Surviving a traumatic assault is not a reason to be shunned; it is a reason to be embraced and supported on every level possible.

Campbell, R., Dworkin, E., & Cabral, G. (2009). An Ecological Model of the Impact of Sexual Assault On Women’s Mental Health. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 10(3), 225-246. doi:10.1177/1524838009334456

There’s no easy cure for mental health conditions, but stigma can be cured. Find your cure at CureStigma.org #CureStigma

Photo credit: Eden Baron