How to Support Survivors of Sexual Assault

How to Support Survivors of Sexual Assault

Statement courtesy of the PLANNED PARENTHOOD FEDERATION OF AMERICA:                                  

NEW YORK, NY— The public discourse around the accusations of sexual assault against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh has included troubling, harmful rhetoric and misinformation about sexual assault and survivors of sexual assault. As a trusted health care provider and educator, Planned Parenthood stands with, and supports all survivors of sexual violence. We understand the impact that sexual assault can have on a person’s health and well-being, and we recognize how critical it is to to correct misinformation and avoid shaming, victim-blaming, or stigmatizing a survivor if and when they decide to share their story.

In order to educate more people on how they can respond in a supportive and compassionate way when someone shares an experience of sexual assault, without adding to the shame and guilt that many survivors feel, Planned Parenthood has released a video on how to respond when someone shares an experience of sexual assault.

“Every day, staff at Planned Parenthood health centers see patients who have experienced sexual assault, who are disclosing a sexual assault for the first time, or who are looking for resources and support,” said Dr. Gillian Dean, senior director of medical services at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “We listen to patients, we provide referrals in a safe setting, and we help them make their own decisions about what they need — something that each and every survivor deserves.”

Rape is one form of sexual assault, but it’s not the only kind. Sexual assault can include forced kissing, touching, and groping. tweet

Sexual assault is the use of force, coercion, or an imbalance of power to make a person engage in sexual activity without their consent. Rape is one form of sexual assault, but it’s not the only kind. Sexual assault can include forced kissing, touching, and groping. Sexual assault is sometimes called sexual abuse, and the legal definitions for these terms differ depending on where you live. The bottom line is that if someone does something sexual to you without your consent, it’s sexual assault and it’s unacceptable.

Women, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, and people of color are more likely to experience sexual assault than other people. tweet

Sexual assault can happen to anyone. It happens to women, men, and people of all genders and backgrounds. Not every survivor will look the same, behave the same, or have the same story. Women, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, and people of color are more likely to experience sexual assault than other people.

Sexual assault is more common than many people think; it is vastly underreported for multiple reasons, including that approximately seven out of 10 assaults are committed by someone known to the victim.

“As a provider of sexual and reproductive health care, I know firsthand that it can take years for some patients to talk about their experiences of sexual assault,” said Dr. Dean. “I know that many survivors never report their experiences, and that a trusted health care provider may be the first or only person they’ve told. It’s important to understand how difficult and overwhelming it can be to talk about a traumatic experience. That’s why it’s critical that people listen, and not shame or judge survivors.

“Survivors of sexual assault deserve respect. They need to make their own decisions about what they want to do and what kinds of support they need. Survivors can blame themselves or feel ashamed, so I don’t ask questions that start with ‘Why did you…?’ or ‘Why didn’t you…?’ Instead, I tell them I believe them, thank them for trusting me with their story, and ask them what they need to feel supported.”

As the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable reproductive and sexual health care, Planned Parenthood believes that survivors of sexual assault deserve compassionate, affordable reproductive health care and accurate, nonjudgmental sexual health information, including access to emergency contraception, rape kits, STD testing, post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), and abortion. We are committed to educating people of all ages on sexual assault and how best to support survivors.

To find a Planned Parenthood health center near you, visit plannedparenthood.org. To find additional information and resources on sexual assault, visit the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization at RAINN.org.

Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
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