The stories just keep coming. From #metoo to Bill Cosby's sentencing, to this week, when the President of the United States publicly mocked a woman who says she was sexually assaulted, the reality of what sexual assault survivors face has never received so much attention.
The good news is, those of us who empathize with survivors—or are survivors ourselves—are empowered to make change in this moment.
Treating survivors with dignity and kindness isn't a political issue, and no matter what our political stripes, there are things we can do—right now—to support them.
1. Donate to RAINN
The nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization, RAINN (the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) partners with more than 1,000 local service providers across the country to help prevent sexual violence, assist those who have experienced it, and help get those responsible criminally prosecuted.
Dr. Ford's story has directly impacted RAINN. According to the organization, the hearing resulted in a 338% increase in hotline traffic. RAINN is there when survivors need to talk, and right now, a lot of survivors need to talk.
"History shows us that when high-profile allegations such as these are in the news it often causes others to reach out too. This story has clearly resonated with survivors, and has led thousands to reach out for help for the first time," says RAINN president Scott Berkowitz.
2. Donate to End the Backlog
Rape kits are powerful tools for prosecuting abusers, but all too often, rape kits (and the DNA they contain that could convict someone of this horrible crime) sits on a shelf in an evidence locker, untested and rapists aren't held accountable. End the Backlog is working to change that, by testing rape kits and identifying the reasons for the backlog.
3. Attend or organize a rally in support of survivors
As RAINN's president said, survivors of sexual assault need to talk right now, and they also need to know that they are not alone, that there are plenty of people who are willing to support them. We can show our support by attending or even organizing events like the #metoo rally happening in Springfield, Missouri on Saturday, October 6, or the Take Back the Night rallies happen in Joliet, Illinois or Grand Forks, North Dakota on Thursday, October 4.
4. Vote in the upcoming midterm elections
Register to vote. Ask your representatives and those running against them what they are doing to help survivors of sexual assault heal, and what they are doing to help stop sexual violence. Vote accordingly.
5. Teach your children about consent and let them know that you will believe them
Teaching our children about body safety and consent is one way we can help change the way sexual assault is treated in our society. We need to let our children know that their bodies are their own and that they do not have the right to touch anyone else's.
We also need to let them know that if they ever need to tell us something, we will be there to believe them and support them, not mock them.
It's been a hard couple weeks, but we have the power to help sexual assault survivors and hold abusers accountable. We have the power to change the world for our children.