It’s 2:00 am on a cool fall night and the sudden ringing of your cellphone invades the quiet and safety of sleep. Your eyes open and you stare at it for a moment, sliding it from the bedside table and answering it. It’s one of Albion’s 24/7 staff members & Jane, a Sexual Assault Examiner Nurse (SANE), has just admitted a young college student who has been sexually assaulted and is requesting a Crisis Response Advocate.
A crisis is often an unexpected trauma that profoundly impacts your life. It does not send you a calendar reminder, and it certainly is not something that an individual seeks. It is trauma that can be laced with danger or fear, and it often comes with a weight of blame and guilt that society has seemingly mislabeled as “your fault.”
It isn’t your fault, by the way.
It is only the abuser’s fault. Always.
The Aftermath & Advocacy
You were not expecting a trip to the emergency room when you left to hang out with friends. Overwhelming turmoil and confusion seep in as you answer questions from the lady behind the front desk, and you hesitate before following a nurse into an examining room. You catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and the cost of assault sinks in as you take at the moment. You may try to rationalize how the night got to this point or question if you should report to the police. You struggle with calling anyone so early in the morning, but you do not want to be alone.
Approximately 70% of those who experience sexual assault or rape experience moderate to severe distress, the largest percentage than any other violent crime.
Society teaches us to say no and defend ourselves, failing to recognize that fight or flight is not always our response to threatening situations. We gloss over the bravery an individual who has experienced some of the worst trauma, replacing it with doubt that plants the seeds of questions like “Why didn’t you leave?, Why didn’t you scream? or Why didn’t you tell them to stop?”
It conceals the actuality that consent is a clear yes – not the absence of no. It diminishes a traumatic experience and reduces into blame and guilt.
Approximately 70% of those who experience sexual assault or rape experience moderate to severe distress, the largest percentage than any other violent crime. Crisis Response Advocacy uniquely blends services that respect your experience and recognize the effects that sexual violence can have in both the long and short-term.
Crisis does not abide by times of days, years, or holidays. Phone calls at 2:00 am on Christmas mooring are just as likely to occur as phone calls on February 1 at 12:00 pm. Some months are quiet and require a handful of responses while other months are intense and require multiple responses on any given day or week.
It takes a special dedication to advocate for those impacted by sexual assault. No experience is the same and each interaction is as unique as the individuals Albion serves. They come in the form of holding your hand as you undergo a rape kit just as easily as providing you with information and community resource referrals.
In reality, crisis response advocacy takes a village to operate. The countless hours of volunteers and staff are matched equally by our communities capacity to support them through monetary and in-kind contributions. Community support ensures that response is free and accessible to anyone, ensuring no individual is left without support. It also ensures that advocates may provide small kindnesses in the form of clothing or hygiene products after an officer or nurse takes their clothing for evidence.
My team and I have the privilege of sitting alongside survivors in emergency rooms and providing support as they undergo sexual assault forensic examinations. Often, as part of that grueling process, their clothes are taken from them to be processed as evidence. With the support and generosity of our community and donors, these courageous people are given care packages that include a change of clothes and personal care items. Over and over again, I have seen the impact these donations make. They provide comfort and a sense of security while communicating that they are believed, respected, and blameless.
Please consider joining our community of advocates & provide some of these much-needed items.
Leslie, Crisis Response Program Director