St. Augustine Woman's Journal - Educational Resource to the Women of St. Johns County Since 2009

By Jackie Meredith - MA RNHCI
Sexual Assault Response Coordinator Betty Griffin Center 

Believe Survivors, Change Culture


April 1, 2017 | View PDF

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. What does Sexual Assault Awareness mean and why does it involve you?

National statistics show that more than one-in-three women have experienced Intimate Partner Violence "IPV" that includes rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

In fact, one-in-five women and one-in-71 men will be raped in their lifetime, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV).

Also, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) reports that in eight-out-of-10 cases of rape, the victim knew the person who sexually assaulted them. Those are very scary statistics, but they may be higher because sexual assault/rape is the most under-reported crime in the United States and the World.

Why is it underreported?

Well, the answer is simple: it's our culture. Unfortunately, when sexual assault is involved we too often focus on the victim: the victim's behavior, responsibility, character and social expectations, and not the perpetrator. Why is that? Is it that hard to believe someone could have been sexually assaulted?

Rape or Sexual Assault can happen to anyone, anywhere at any time; no one is exempt from it.

It involves you and more people than you know.

Do you think that a victim who is going out with her friends to a sports bar decides what to wear in hopes that she will get raped? Do you think that way when you are leaving your house or going out in public? Of course, not. The only person responsible for any violent crime, especially rape and sexual assault, is the perpetrator. The perpetrator is the one that decides that they will rape or sexually assault someone, not because of how the other person is dressed, acts, their level of intoxication, attraction or vulnerability, but because they choose to.

You can't read a newspaper, go online, watch TV or listen to the radio without learning about another sexual assault or rape incident in our country. But many in our society automatically focuses in on the victim. People ask how the victim could say such horrible things, and doesn't the victim know that it will ruin the alleged perpetrator's life? Why was the victim at that location and drinking? Instead, we should ask about the perpetrator. Why did that perpetrator choose to rape, and what can we do to hold that person accountable?

As a society, we need to change our culture and that starts with you. First, we need to believe the victim and secondly, understand that violence, sexual assault and rape are all around us. It is in our music, TV shows, movies, magazines, and video games, that lead us unconsciously to accept it as being the norm. Our society is influenced by what we watch.

Believe it or not, how we perceive victims is influenced by what we've seen on TV, videos and movies: that victims must act in a certain way to be a "true victim" and when they don't, they are simply lying.

In reality, NSVRC researchers found that the prevalence of false reporting in sexual assault cases is as low as two percent!

Second, we should not accept behavior that demoralizes, exploits and capitalizes on the inhumane treatment of the vulnerable, especially women and children.

Third, it is important to teach and model healthy attitudes toward sex and relationships for our children, help our college students create a safe, equal, tolerant and inclusive campus community, support survivors by being empathetic, non-judgmental and empowering them by giving them information and resources to let them make their own choices.

Finally, our culture affects the outcomes of rape and sexual assault cases because we blame victims. As a society, we need to change our attitude to help and support these survivors. The numbers show in nearly all cases that survivors should be believed.

If you would like more information about Sexual Assault, Rape or Domestic Violence, please go to our website or call our 24-hour Help-line at (904) 824-1555. If you are a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault or know someone who is and would like free counseling, please contact our Outreach office at (904) 808-8544.

The Betty Griffin Center was founded in 1990 by concerned citizens and incorporated as the Safety Shelter of St. Johns County to develop plans to provide shelter for local victims of domestic violence and their children. In 1992, the nonprofit agency contracted with a local motel for space and started a 24-hour crisis line and court advocacy program. By 1994, the agency purchased and opened Betty Griffin Center as permanent shelter. The shelter was expanded in 1998 to meet local demand, and sexual assault program was added the same year. Today, Betty Griffin Center shelters approximately 450 victims of domestic and sexual abuse annually, operates a 24-hour crisis helpline, provides professional counseling for victims of domestic and sexual abuse, provides age-appropriate violence prevention training and also operates two thrift stores at Julington Square and Anastasia Square to assist in funding the agency’s ongoing operations.


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