Following are remarks from Hopeful Horizons' CEO Kristin Dubrowski for Take Back the Night, held on April 22, 2021.
Thank you all so much for being here tonight on zoom – hopefully next year we will be able to be together in person.
Over the past 22 years working in victim services I have seen a lot of positive changes in our community:
We are talking about rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment more openly thanks in part to movements like Me Too and Time’s Up - and we’re talking about the importance of men’s roles in ending violence against women.
We have learned that victims are traumatized, that trauma causes a variety of responses and that trauma can have a lasting impact.
We have also learned that the impact of trauma can be mitigated and we have evidence-based treatments, like those offered at Hopeful Horizons, to help with the healing process.
However, we still have a long way to go.
We still hold victims responsible for the actions of those who perpetrate assault by continuing to ask victims what they did or didn’t do /or what they wore/or where they were.
We continue to only see some victims as credible – victims who don’t fit our expectations of a “good” victim, victims who don’t come forward immediately after an assault and victims who are married to the person who assaults them are still less likely to be believed.
We still haven’t figured out how to address the fact that black women are at a disproportionately high risk of sexual violence as are transgender people, people who have disabilities and those in other marginalized groups.
Because of these and many other factors, rape and sexual assault continue to be the most underreported crimes.
In fact, during the pandemic we’ve seen fewer victims of sexual assault reach out for help – even though we know that rates of sexual violence typically escalate during states of emergency.
In order for reporting rates to change, in order for survivors to come forward and seek help, we must work together to build a community intolerant of sexual violence.
We ALL have a role to play in ending sexual violence and it starts with hearing and believing survivors.
Whether a victim reaches out to a friend, a parent, law enforcement, school personnel, a medical provider, clergy, their employer or Hopeful Horizons, they should be able to expect support, not blame.
They should hear the words, “it’s not your fault” and “I’m sorry this happened to you” and “how can I help?”
They should be given resources, like Hopeful Horizons’ 24-hour support line or our anonymous chat support group.
As professionals, co-workers and loved ones, we need to recognize that survivors deserve to define what justice and healing look like for them and it’s our role to help them on that journey.
Hopeful Horizons is here for you – all of you.
Kristin Dubrowski, MNM
Chief Executive Officer, Hopeful Horizons