Signs of progress in ending sexual violence | GUEST OP

  • Thursday, May 31, 2018 9:05am
  • Opinion
Mary Ellen Stone. COURTESY PHOTO

Mary Ellen Stone. COURTESY PHOTO

The conversation surrounding sexual violence has grown louder in recent months as more and more women, men and young people have come forward to disclose abuse.

As painful as this conversation can be, it is critical to finding solutions. One of the most vexing challenges to ending sexual violence is that it thrives on silence. Simply put, we can’t change what we can’t talk about.

Sexual violence is pervasive and complex. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused by the age of 18. A combination of social and cultural factors contributes to these startling numbers, including our attitudes towards sexuality, healthy relationships, gender roles and a tolerance of violence.

We know how to end sexual violence, but it requires individuals, institutions and communities to work in concert. We want to share a few exciting signs of progress on this front.

Last month, 34 King County communities and the King County Council engaged in Sexual Assault Awareness Month, setting a new bar for participation. This effort, led by Sound Cities Association Director Deanna Dawson, Renton Mayor Denis Law and Kirkland Mayor Amy Walen, acknowledged that the entire community is affected by sexual violence, and everyone plays a role in the solution. Every council meeting was an opportunity to raise this issue publicly, recognize it happens everywhere, and formally say “enough.”

Another sign of progress is new interest from health providers, schools, public transit and corporations in partnering with the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, both to improve their response to sexual violence, and to prevent it from happening.

We’re excited to partner with King County Metro Transit and the King County Sheriff’s Office on Metro Transit’s new “Report it to Stop it” campaign, launched in April. The campaign aims to reduce incidents of sexual misconduct on buses by encouraging victims and witnesses to report, and offering support to survivors.

We’re also excited by a new partnership with Kaiser Permanente that allows KCSARC to expand resources and training that will help reduce the risk of abuse. The set of tools under development engages young people and other community members, and builds on our nationally recognized Trauma-Informed Classrooms prevention resources. Initially designed for use in high schools, this resource helps trusted adults who work with children and young people every day know what questions to ask, what to look for, and – very importantly – how to respond in a way that begins to heal trauma when a young person discloses abuse. Just as important, it also helps young people communicate with adults, and with each other, helping to ensure sexual abuse is surfaced and addressed where it exists, rather than hidden away.

Why do we consider these developments signs of progress? We know that many survivors do not come forward because they are fearful of not being believed, or they perceive nothing will be done to change the situation.

We also know a supportive first response to a disclosure of abuse helps survivors begin to heal.

“I believe you, I’m sorry this happened to you, and I want to help you” are powerful responses that a survivor needs to hear when speaking up about abuse, whether from an elected leader, a bus driver, law enforcement officer or teacher.

We know the toll that trauma caused by sexual assault takes on individuals, families and whole communities. We see the effects of sexual assault every day in KCSARC’s offices; last year alone, we served 4,100 individuals and their families with therapy, family education, legal advocacy and more. The girls, boys, women and men we serve live in every community in King County. They attend your school, share your commute, and work in your office or on your job site.

We’re grateful to those who are connecting with KCSARC to understand and share effective resources, and actively using their voice to make sure abuse has no cover where they have most influence. We need all systems working together to shift attitudes and change behaviors.

Mary Ellen Stone is executive director of the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, based in Renton.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@auburn-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.auburn-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Opinion

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Points of contention on police inquests in King County

Inquests frequently unfold against a backdrop of sadness and drama: Family members’… Continue reading

Guests gather to view a photo of Pilchuck Julia during the naming ceremony of the Snohomish River boat landing named for her in August, 2019. (Kevin Clark / Herald file photo)
Editorial: What history is owed through our monuments

The decisions regarding whom we honor in our public squares require deliberation and consensus.

Jayendrina Singha Ray is a PhD (ABD) in English, with a research focus on the works of the South African Nobel Laureate John Maxwell Coetzee. She teaches English Composition and Research Writing at Highline College, WA, and has previously taught English at colleges in India.
The search for selfhood

What really matters is the desire to find.

Cartoon by Frank Shiers
Editorial: Stopping COVID is now up to each of us

With a resurgence threatening, we need to take greater responsibility to keep the virus in check.

Valley police chiefs of King County release unified message in response to death of George Floyd

Police chiefs of Des Moines, Tukwila, Renton, Federal Way, Kent, Auburn, Algona, Pacific, Black Diamond and the Port of Seattle pledge to stand with communities.

Pandemic illustrates the need for government action

Despite spending most of my life in government and politics and working… Continue reading

Back to the wild — a whole new outdoor recreation world | Guest editorial

When enjoying the great outdoors, continue to socially distance and be aware of how else COVID-19 has changed our world.

KCLS is stepping up its commitment to patrons

KCLS has expanding its online resources so patrons can continue to learn, build skills, stay entertained and remain mentally and physically active amid the pandemic.

How using a face mask to cover my Asian face could put me in danger

Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, Asians and Asian Americans have been targeted.

Opinion: Public deserves honest information on sex education

The Washington comprehensive sex education bill passed in the Senate on March 7.

Grocery store staff are working hard to keep the shelves stocked during the COVID-19 pandemic. File photo
Thank you grocery store clerks

Recognizing the sacrifices of our unsung essential workforce.

Helping community organizations as we respond to the coronavirus

Now, more than ever, nonprofits need gifts of time and money