By Dan Church, CCASA Blogger
Over the past year I have noticed an odd social occurrence in relation to my job. Perhaps I’m out with some friends of a friend, catching relatives up on what I’ve been up to, or chatting with a stranger in line, but wherever you are you can generally count on the question of “what do you do” coming up. As an employee of a rape crisis center, this generally elicits a response along the lines of “oh, wow” followed by on occasional “that must be really depressing” and an awkward silence.
I understand why this is a natural place for people to go. I am not a puppy photographer or beer taste-tester or rainbow importer. Sexual assault doesn’t bring happy thoughts to anyone’s mind, and we’ve had plenty of news and media to thoroughly remind us of that. We pushed through a painful election season where rape was used as everyone’s special-interest tool only to be left with a congress that did not reauthorize funding of the Violence Against Women Act. Every day we receive news updates on the systemic injustices around rape in India and on sexual assault cover ups in U.S. high schools. In our own state, we have found a 10 year-old child sexually assaulted and murdered by a 17 year-old Colorado child. Compounded by the shootings, natural disasters and daily hardships so much of Colorado has faced, things are depressing, and overwhelming, and infuriating. Even talking about sexual assault can feel exhausting.
The reality though is that this is only part of the picture of working against sexual violence. The parts you don’t hear about include the passing of Colorado legislation to help sexual assault survivors with disabilities receive justice and one case where it has already been successfully been implemented. You probably haven’t heard about the police officers, nurses, prosecutors, military personnel, and advocates who collaborate all over our state to make sure survivors receive the best care possible. You definitely have not heard about any of the countless survivors who have called a hotline and been reminded of their own strength and courage by individuals who care enough to be there. All over this state, people are coming together to change our communities for the better. That is what doing this work is really about. It is not depressing. It is inspiring and fulfilling, and there is so much that can be done.
My challenge to anyone who would read this would be to get involved with the goodness that is taking place in your community around these issues. Whether you are looking for serious ways to get involved in this work or just a few simple ways to do something for your community, there are countless things that can do real good. Email your congressperson in support of victim-friendly legislation, attend a local screening of a documentary around rape culture, use social media to spread positive articles that dispel rape myths and support victims, or contact your local rape crisis center to find out how you can join in the work they are already doing. These things aren’t time and energy consuming, but can mean real help for survivors and real change in our communities. Above all, talk about what you are doing and why you are doing it. The more we talk about all of the things our communities are doing to fight sexual assault, the more everyone else will too. This is the year for our communities to come together and that isn’t anything depressing about that.