Responding to Sexual Violence in Medicine Hat – Part 7
As we come to the end of this article series we hope this project has provided insight into the roles of some members of the Medicine Hat Sexual Assault Response Team (SART).
Meeting with various team members has shown that we all have the same goal, to help survivors of sexual assault and sexual abuse on their path to healing. We each play a different role while offering support and encouragement along the way. Whether a member of police/justice service, a health care provider, or a support person, each agency specializes in different services to aid survivors.
1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men are sexually assaulted in their lifetime, often before the age of 18. Sexual violence can lead to PTSD, addiction, anxiety, and other long-term health issues. Prevention through education is key, and counselling to help the survivor heal and to stop the transmission of trauma to future generations is critical for those affected by sexual violence.
2016 has been a critical year for speaking out against sexual violence. High profile cases such as Jian Ghomeshi, Bill Cosby, and Brock Turner resulted in public outcry upon learning the legal results of these trials. Celebrity survivors like Lady Gaga and Ke$ha raised their voices to the issue of sexual violence. Political leaders and candidates have been heavily scrutinized for their comments and behaviour towards women. Social media became a powerful tool through hashtags like #IBelieveYou, #WeBelieveSurvivors, #NotOkay, and #WhyWomenDontReport. While sexual violence became an important discussion in 2016, the fact that these examples were such controversial topics shows there is still much work to be done.
So how can we make a difference? While the SART is a strong collaborative in the community, it requires the support of the community to work effectively. Anyone and everyone can make a change to help end sexual violence. Volunteer for a group like SARC or Victim Assistance. Make a monetary donation to a group committed to ending sexual assault/abuse. Educate yourself on the issue of sexual assault and community resources available, then use that knowledge to educate others. As the collaborative works together to end sexual violence and dedicates their resources to the cause, they cannot do it alone. You can recognize the good work being done, get involved, and help make the changes we all want to see.
Increased awareness about support services for those affected by sexual assault and sexual abuse is essential to building healthy communities. By connecting with resources available, individuals can find the support and information they need. By working together to provide a safe, supportive environment for survivors to disclose assault, we can help raise a healthier community for future generations.