How To Prevent Sexual Assault (And Help Current Victims Recover)

Photo: WeHeartIt

A young man, Owen Labrie, has been in the news most recently for his acquittal on charges of rape. He was accused of raping a minor that he'd propositioned following a tradition known as the "senior salute," in which seniors at St. Paul's School get to have a sexual encounter with someone they've had an interest in previously.

The 15-year-old girl involved in this case claims that while she consented to some of the sexual acts, she did not consent to all of them.

So when this victim walks away from the courtroom after boldly telling her story, how will she be able to recover from this event that so dramatically changed her life?

And how do we as a society do what's necessary to help her feel safe? How are we making changes to ensure that sexual assaults, in whatever form and venue, are being prevented?

The arduous path to recovery isn't a solo journey. 

Recovery from sexual assault is a complicated process. The individual has to first come to terms with what happened to them and in such a scary and heinous situation, denial looms like a shadowy beast.

This is the loneliest of times for someone surviving a trauma such as this. Right before they tell anyone they must go through their list of friends, family and acquaintances and wonder, "Who can I trust?" and "Who won't judge and accuse me of bringing it upon myself?"

If they take the leap and begin to tell their story, they must begin to feel and face what has happened to them. Trauma needs a voice. Not only do survivors owe it to themselves and others with similar stories, but the brain needs this to happen for a full recovery.

When we share are traumatic stories, it's moved from the survival part of the brain to the logic center of the brain. What happens in the brain is a mirror of what's happening in the world. The brain and the world get the message: we can survive this.

When victims allow others to hear their story, support from those listening is key.

The one thing this brave storyteller needs more than anything is acceptance. She's raped over and over when her story isn't believed, or when what she was wearing is allowed to become part of the defense teams tactics.

We're wired to survive difficulties, even to have those difficulties become the most pivotal of life lessons. We're not wired for the isolation that comes from people refusing to understand what we're going through.

Rape support groups are almost mandatory in crisis centers across the nation. Many times women facilitate these groups, who have little to no education and experience. And yet, they offer healing.

The healing comes from the very nature of group itself: people who understand and accept you. For this 15-year-old, her group might be peers who changed their minds and were forced into sex anyway.

What can we do to help victims everywhere who feel isolated, scared and powerless?

When an act or attempt of suicide happens after a rape trauma, it's not because of the act itself; it's because of the tape that plays over in their head that they'll never belong anywhere. Loneliness and separation are powerful precursors to hopelessness.

How do we make this better? Do we put up a crisis center on every corner and attempt to pick up the pieces of every 1 in 4 females that have been sexually victimized? 

What if we put our efforts in to educating boys, young and older men about non-violence?

Educating men of all ages about non-violence can help decrease future victims.

Men Can Stop Rape is an organization that is doing just that. Instead of sitting back and watching yet another self-defense class for women advertised as an answer to men's violence towards women, they're being proactive and preventive in their approach and saying "We, as men need to be non-violent with women." It's a great place to start.

Somewhere along the way, our boys were taught that once things got rolling for them sexually, there was no stopping that force. And additionally, that it's a women's responsibility to take care of that need.

Women are not passive participants in the sex act. Their only purpose in sex is not to get her partner off, or to prevent him from having "blue balls." Men can proficiently take care of their sexual needs, just like they can take care of themselves in any other area of their life.

If we empower our boys to understand what complete consent is, everyone wins. Boys are capable of understanding that a woman can change her mind halfway through and her "yes" can go to a "no."

Boys are sensitive enough to appreciate the many complications of sex. With this type of education, boys no longer have to face a sexual encounter feeling as though it is a conquest and he's a loser if he doesn’t get to coitus. We can sensitively teach our boys and men that sex is so much more than just penis in vagina.

Men have all the tools to prevent acts of non-consent.

Men are powerful enough to stop themselves. They are so powerful that even when that Kobi steak has been marinated overnight and perfectly grilled they can pass on it when their doctor has told them red meat is bad for their health.

They are even powerful enough to hear and heed the whisper of a "no" from a terrified young lady.

EMDR is a very effective therapeutic intervention useful for recovery from trauma. Find out more by visiting this website.