I spent hours answering calls on sexual assault crisis lines as a graduate student. In my training, I was taught to answer the phone with a simple “hello,” because we had no way of knowing if the person dialing was the one seeking services or their abuser checking the phone calls of the individual seeking help. I remember vividly the stress the very first time the phone rang. Who would be on the other end of the line? Would they be safe? Would I know what to say?
I learned two incredibly important things in my hours on the line. One: It is extremely difficult for people to make that first call — exponentially more difficult than it is for me to pick up. Two: We must trust and believe individuals willing to take the risk of calling for help.
My training taught me how to point people in the right direction for resources, counseling and support groups. I learned to ask, “Are you safe right now?” And when caller after caller asked me when recounting their stories, “Am I crazy?” I knew to say, “No, this is a crazy-making experience. I am here. I am listening.”
I have been a community advocate for those who experience sexual violence for over 15 years. I organized Take Back the Night events on my college campus, sat with individuals for hours at hospitals as they had evidence collected after a sexual assault and now volunteer on a board for a local nonprofit that provides outreach, education and support services to those victimized by sexual violence. I spent years researching and analyzing sexual assault policy. This is a problem I know well.
One in three Utah women live through the trauma of violence at the hands of an intimate partner or husband. We know this is an issue that crosses all gender lines. And we also know that domestic violence calls are the most dangerous for responding law enforcement officers.
These numbers do not reflect the freedoms we hold dear for every American: The freedom to feel safe in our communities. The freedom of our law enforcement officers to come home to their families after each shift. The freedom to speak out against violence in our homes and workplaces without repercussion. The freedom from fear.13 comments on this story
With the rise of the #MeToo movement and the news of White House staff leaving their post over incidents of domestic violence, we are collectively forced to confront the fact that we have a problem. It's a problem that has long been suppressed by shame and hidden in silence, a problem that our workplaces, our branches of the military, our faith leaders, our entertainment industry, our schools, our prisons, our legislators are not fully equipped to deal with.
This weekend, Kellyanne Conway hit the political talk shows to say “there’s a stigma and a silence surrounding all these issues. … Those who are in a position to do something about it ought to.” They haven’t — not to the extent they could. When our leaders have yet to act and are complicit by their silence and actions, then it is time we replace them as leaders.