The Steubenville, Ohio verdict this past weekend was a step forward in the quest to end to sexual assault and victim blaming.
The victim in this instance showed great strength in choosing to speak out against her attackers in spite of their popularity and what was being said on social media. Hopefully she will serve as an inspiration for those in similar situations and instill the courage to come forward and seek justice.
The verdict was also a step forward in the attempt to get rid of any ideas that there are varying shades of rape.
No means no.
Yes means yes.
No amount of alcohol, how someone dresses or even how someone flirts serves as a substitute for actual consent.
There’s no such thing as ‘gray’ rape.
Sexual assault or rape refers to pressuring someone into doing something they don’t want to do. This includes unwanted kissing or touching, doing things sexually to someone who is drunk or on drugs and rape or attempted rape.
Know that if you ever find yourself in this situation, it is never your fault and there are people and places to turn to. Here are some steps to follow should you or someone you know suffer sexual assault:
Contact someone you trust. Strong emotions can accompany sexual assault -- anger, fear, shame -- so it’s important to find some form of support to help navigate those emotions and support you. The girl in Steubenville was able to go to her parents about what happened. If you aren’t comfortable telling your parents or someone close to you about it, you can always chat with one of our advocates about what you’re going through.
Report what happened to the police. If you decide to report what happened, it’s important to not alter or destroy any evidence. This also means social media. The parents of the girl in this case saved social media posts suggesting she was assaulted and took them to the police. Those posts played a huge role in the case. Altering or destroying evidence also means not showering, changing your clothes or combing your hair. If you are nervous going to the police, try to bring someone with you for support.
Go to an emergency room or health clinic. For your health, it’s important to seek care as soon as you can after being assaulted. This will help with any injuries, but you’ll also be offered any medications to help prevent pregnancy and STIs.
Most victims, as in the Steubenville case, know their attacker. This can make it especially scary to come forward. But know that having the strength to speak out let’s everyone know it’s not ok and there’s never an excuse for sexual assault.
Speaking out is hard. Like in the Steubenville case, the conversation around the assault can be critical of the survivor and supportive of the perpetrators. It's important to ignore the negative as best as possible, even if it comes from "reliable" sources like CNN. Try to find the positive and know that a lot of people support you -- from organizations like loveisrespect to actors like Kumail Nanjiani. Build a reliable support system and focus on them.
The young girl in Steubenville and everyone who supported her helped bring national attention to a subject that can no longer be silenced. With their help and people like them, we are another step closer to saying NO MORE to sexual assualt!
If you or someone you know has suffered sexual assault and needs someone to talk to, call, chat or text "loveis" to 22522. We're here to help 24/7.