Nothing halts a conversation like the words “rape” or “sexual assault.”
Myths about sexual assault continue to circulate in our society. Comments such as “well, she must have asked for it” or “she could have prevented it” are still commonly heard, and these comments often lead the victim to keep the secret. Sexual violence is never the victim’s fault, and shame and guilt often prevent the person from seeking the support he or she needs and deserves.
Sexual assault happens to men as well as women, and occurs across all cultural groups. The staff at Sexual Assault Services Organization, a Durango organization, knows how isolating it can be for someone in a minority group who has experienced a sexual assault. As a result, two new free support groups are currently being organized to meet the need.
A common myth about sexual assault on a man is that he is to blame because “he could have fought off his attacker.” According to the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault, one in 17 men will be sexually assaulted in Colorado this year. Men who are victims of sexual assault often feel extremely isolated in their own family and community.
“Feelings of not being able to tell anyone due to fear of not being accepted are common,” said Emily Newcomer, a therapist for the new SASO men’s support group.
Male survivors will have the opportunity to learn about the effects of trauma on the brain, grief and loss, managing strong emotions and how to develop relationships with support people in their lives during the 12-week session. The education components and the support of the group provide a safe space to promote healing.
Statistics from the Colorado Coalition suggest that one out of every four women in Colorado is sexually assaulted each year. Sometimes, victims are not English speakers. Bilingual services in our community are limited.
Olivia Donaji-De Pablo, SASO’s community organizer, said, “Without culturally competent programs, support cannot effectively promote the inclusion and meaningful participation of monolingual victims and survivors.”
The new SASO support group for Spanish-speaking survivors of sexual assault will provide a safe place for this to occur. A central focus of the group will be to help victims break from the isolation and silence while facing cultural barriers. Women also will have the opportunity to support other women and empower themselves, while starting their own healing journey.
There is no shame in asking for support, and there are options available. Everyone’s journey is different, and it doesn’t matter if the assault happened recently or 30 years ago – it is never too late to begin the healing process.
SASO’s services include these free, confidential support groups: adult female survivors of adult and/or childhood sexual violence; adult male survivors of adult and/or childhood sexual violence; and Spanish-speaking survivors.
For more information, call SASO at 259-3074.
Linda Lute, LAC, MAC, is the executive vice president of Clinical Operations at Axis Health System (formerly Southwest Colorado Mental Health Center Inc.).