With the health care debate raging in Washington, I wanted to ensure that one top health-related issue is not lost. I will be in Washington, D.C. today to meet with members of Congress and discuss the importance of dedicating funds and attention to victims of sexual violence.
Through my involvement with RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), I have had the opportunity to work with many survivors of sexual violence. They tell me of the struggles they face every day dealing with feelings, fear and shame, being alone, and the hurdles they've had to overcome in healing from the physical, emotional and psychological injuries.
Odds are, one of your family members, friends, or colleagues has endured the physical and psychological scars of this crime. The statistics are alarming: one in six women and one in 33 men will become a victim of sexual assault in their lifetime. According to the Justice Department, there are over 20 million survivors of sexual violence in the U.S today.
While the actual attack may only last moments, the effects of this life-shattering crime can last a lifetime, making the need for sexual assault services, like the National Sexual Assault Hotline, all the more important.
Victims of sexual violence are more likely to suffer from grave mental health issues than non-victims; in fact they are:
- 3 times more likely to suffer from depression.
- 4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.
- 6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol.
- 26 times more likely to abuse drugs.
These serious effects have the potential to rob survivors of their ability to live a full life in the aftermath of the attack or sexual abuse. Fortunately, there is good news -- recovery is possible. With proper access to care, treatment, and counseling, a survivor of this crime can go on to lead a happy, healthy and productive life.
In my work with RAINN, we strive to get the word out to survivors that they don't need to go it alone, that help is available, both moments after an assault and years later. RAINN, through the National Sexual Assault Hotlines and the 1,100 local rape crisis centers across the country that we partner with, works around the clock to provide free, confidential, support services, so that there is always someone available to guide a survivor toward recovery.
While significant progress has been made in the past decade, we must do more to improve access to sexual assault support services. RAINN and rape crisis centers nationwide are financially struggling to meet the growing number of people who need support. In the past year alone, demand for the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline has more than doubled.
We need your help, here's how:
Consider volunteering at your local rape crisis center. Your local center has opportunities available to directly assist survivors through the telephone hotline, or even accompanying victims to the hospital. To find volunteer opportunities in your community, visit here.
Small donations of as little as $20 can make a huge difference in the lives of victims. By donating to RAINN, you can ensure that the National Sexual Assault Hotline can continue to provide free, support, 24/7 to those who need it most. You can go here to donate.
Call your member of Congress today and let them know that sexual assault program services such as the National Sexual Assault Hotline are important to you. Urge your member to support full funding for ending the backlog of untested DNA evidence from rapes that have already occurred.
For more information about how you can help raise awareness about sexual assault, or to volunteer and provide support to someone who really needs your help, please visit rainn.org. Together, we can ensure that no survivor of this crime has to go it alone.