By Rep. Katrina Shankland
Everyone knows someone who is a survivor of sexual assault or violence, whether that person has shared their story or not. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in three women and one in six men have experienced some form of sexual violence in our country. Recently, a record number of survivors contacted the National Sexual Assault Hotline, and more people than ever before have come forward to share their stories, driving a national conversation that is long overdue.
Sexual violence is not partisan or political, and the time for it to be ignored and swept under the rug is over. It is a public health epidemic that must be thoughtfully discussed and addressed with services, resources, and support for survivors of any age, of any gender, at any time.
To all survivors, whether you decide to report your experience, share with a confidential hotline, tell a trusted friend, or not: please know you are valued, you are not alone, and it is not your fault. The decision to tell someone can be difficult, as reliving the trauma can be unbearable – and help is available in whatever form feels most comfortable and accessible to you. There is no single road to recovery or means of dealing with a traumatic experience; everyone responds and processes in their own ways, and you deserve the treatment and support you need to heal.
RAINN offers a confidential hotline with trained staff who can listen to you. You can call them at 800-656-HOPE or reach out via the online hotline at https://hotline.rainn.org/online/. If you’d like to report, visit Cap Services’ Family Crisis Center at 1616 W River Drive, Stevens Point, where a victim advocate can help you. Your local sexual assault service provider can offer medical attention and hospital accompaniment, counseling, crime victim assistance advocacy, legal and criminal justice system advocacy, and more.
If you are feeling hopeless, know that you are an important member of our community. Reach out to the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 to talk. People want to hear your thoughts and feelings and help you work through them. Reach out to a trusted friend or family member.
We must support survivors by listening to them, believing them, and helping them in whatever way they ask. We need to do more for survivors, but we also need to do more to prevent sexual assault and violence altogether. Having vital conversations about consent and supporting others through bystander invention are ways we can help. It’s on all of us to call out predatory behavior when we see it and to believe survivors and give them the space and resources they need to heal.
Together, we can strengthen our community by discussing these tough issues and working toward both personal recovery and fostering a community where everyone feels safe, protected, and believed. I believe you, I see you, and I’m here for you.
Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point) serves Portage County in the Wisconsin State Assembly. She can be reached at 608-267-9649 or Rep.Shankland@legis.wisconsin.gov.