After Todd Akin’s horrible comments on rape recently; the subject has been front and centre in the news and in the debate on twitter, facebook and most social media. I have never seen the subject so front and centre in the media and honestly, as someone who dealt with childhood sexual assault and a very recent sexual assault, it has become very hard for me to follow the media without dealing with stress and flashbacks. I realized however that I couldn’t avoid it at the moment so I have decided to turn that in to a plea for something more.
In spite of the effect the debate has on me it is a very necessary debate. Attitudes people hold on the subject of rape, especially our legislators and health care providers, need to be questioned and exposed. Unquestioned attitudes on the subject have led to blaming, shaming, and a lack of empathy and understanding. They have also led to something else which is the focus of my blog: a serious lack of services.
After my recent sexual assault many of my PTSD symptoms returned and I needed to seek out services to help me cope and recover. I can tell you from experiences that those services are extremely lacking. I live in one of the better spots to get treatment and still the waiting lists are months. Many people who experience sexual assault need services much faster than that before self-harm, suicide, and various other serious health and personal consequences descend on their lives. Even now months after trying to access services I am still waiting on an appointment just to get a referral to a trauma specialist. Even beyond therapy there is a lack of shelters, a lack of crisis lines and services, and a serious lack of public information and public safety programs to prevent and deal with the sexual assaults.
What can we do? First donate money to your local shelters, sexual assault centres and services, and to education and prevention programs. Secondly, you can volunteer. Most of the services I just mentioned need people to help, staff a crisis line, hand out fliers, help with rides, or any multitude of tasks. Thirdly, if you don’t have money or are able to volunteer many shelters and services can use donations of clothing, food, or toys. Lastly, you can be aware of the local crisis lines and provide an ear for people you know so that you can put them in touch with these services when they need it.
The only one thing I ask before you donate or work with these services is that you make sure they are trans inclusive. Many locations refuse to serve or shelter trans clients and we frequently need these services very badly because many of us lack a support network do to loss of family and friends. Make sure you put your money with services that respect all people.
Don’t let this just be a debate in the media and internet. If this issue is important to you I urge you to do a little more.