Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2022: 9 Tips for How to be an Ally to Survivors

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#SAAM 2022: How Can Allies Better Support Sexual Assault Survivors?

#SAAM 2022: How Can Allies Better Support Sexual Assault Survivors?

Apr 6, 2022

April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). At Dordulian Law Group, we’re a leading California litigation firm representing survivors in civil lawsuits that was founded by a former sex crimes prosecutor. In addition to being fierce advocates for justice on behalf of survivors, it’s important to help educate allies on how to better support those impacted by sexual violence, particularly in the #MeToo Era.

9 Tips for How to be an Ally to Survivors

Let’s look at some important statistics for Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2022 and review Dordulian Law Group’s (DLG) Top 9 Tips for How to Be a Better Ally to Survivors.

2022 Sexual Assault Statistics in the #MeToo Era

Perhaps one of the most troubling statistics offered by DLG’s partner organization, RAINN (the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), is that every 68 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted.

Some additional important statistics on sexual assault, sexual violence, and sex crimes for 2022, as provided by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), include:

  • One out of every five American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed/2.8% attempted).
  • Nearly a quarter (24.8%) of men in the U.S. experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime.
  • Nationwide, 81% of women and 43% of men reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment and/or assault in their lifetime.
  • One in three female victims of completed or attempted rape experienced it for the first time between the ages of 11 and 17.
  • About one in four male victims of completed or attempted rape first experienced it between the ages of 11 and 17.
  • It is estimated that 734,630 people were raped (including threatened, attempted, or completed rape) in the U.S. in 2018.
  • 40% of rapes and sexual assaults were reported to police in 2017, but only about 25% were reported to police in 2018.
  • The prevalence of false reporting for sexual assault crimes is extremely low – between 2% and 10%.
  • Almost one in four undergraduate women experienced sexual assault or misconduct at 33 of the nation’s major universities.
  • About half (51.1%) of female victims of rape reported being raped by an intimate partner and 40.8% by an acquaintance.
  • Over half (52.4%) of male victims report being raped by an acquaintance and 15.1% by a stranger.
  • The estimated lifetime cost of rape is $122,461 per survivor.

Statistics on Sexual Assault/Violence and the Criminal Justice System:

  • Approximately only 25 out of every 1,000 sexual perpetrators will ever end up in prison.
  • Only 310 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are ever reported to the police.
  • Of those reports, only 50 will ever lead to an arrest.
  • Only 28 of those 50 cases will ever lead to a felony conviction.

Statistics on Sexual Assault/Violence in Schools:

2022 Sexual Assault Statistics in the #MeToo Era

  • A recent study issued by the U.S. Education Department confirmed that reports of sexual violence in schools rose more than 50% between the 2015 and 2016 school year.
  • Countless cases of area-school/teacher sexual assault and abuse have been reported in recent years.

Statistics on Childhood Sexual Abuse:

  • Approximately one in four girls and one in 13 boys experience sexual abuse at some point in their childhood.
  • About 20% of sexual abuse victims are under the age of eight.
  • Children are the most vulnerable to sexual abuse between the ages of 14 and 17.
  • About 91% of perpetrators of child sexual abuse know the child’s family.
  • From 2009-2013, Child Protective Services agencies substantiated (or found strong evidence to indicate that) 63,000 children a year were victims of sexual abuse.
  • A majority of child victims are between ages 12 and 17.
  • Of victims under the age of 18, 34% include victims of sexual assault and rape are under age 12, (and 66% of victims of sexual assault and rape are age 12-17).
  • The actual number of child sexual abuse survivors is likely much higher than data indicate because only about 38% of survivors report their abuse.
  • Victims of child sexual abuse are more likely than non-victims to have certain mental health challenges.
  • As an example, victims are approximately four-times more likely to develop symptoms of drugs abuse, four-times more likely to have PTSD as adults, and three-times more likely to experience a major depressive episode (or episodes) as adults.

* Currently California’s landmark AB 218 legislation allows all survivors of childhood sexual abuse the opportunity to file a civil lawsuit in pursuit of justice and due financial compensation through a three-year lookback window. To learn more about California AB 218, please visit DLG’s recent blog.

How Can Allies Support Sexual Assault Survivors?

If someone you care about comes to you with a report of sexual assault, offering support without judgment can be critical. Choosing to come forward and report an incident of sexual violence takes an enormous amount of courage. In order to help ensure that, when ready, more survivors come forward to report sexual assault, here are DLG’s 9 Tips for How to be a Better Ally.

  1. Believe: One of the primary reasons sexual assault survivors are hesitant to come forward is the unknown. Of late, societal norms have thankfully shifted, with the tendency being to believe survivors. But in the past, that was certainly not the case. In fact, prior to the #MeToo Movement gaining traction, the norm was, in many cases, to disregard or minimize reports of sexual assault – whether against an individual, an entity like the Catholic Church or Boy Scouts of America, and even in the workplace. As noted above, the vast majority of sexual assault reports are credible. By believing survivors, we can help ensure more perpetrators are brought to justice.
  2. Listen: As DLG’s founder and president, Sam Dordulian, noted for a recent interview with RAINN, simply listening to sexual assault survivors who have the courage to come forward is essential.”It may sound cliché, but I’ve seen it since I was a sex crimes prosecutor and especially now as a civil attorney for sexual assault survivors – simply not having someone to talk to about the crime often means a survivor doesn’t feel as if they can come forward,” Dordulian said. “That’s why one of the first questions our intake specialists ask when a potential survivor client contacts our office is: ‘Who do you have in your life to support you through this process?'”

    “Unfortunately, the answer is often ‘no one.’ At DLG, we created a SAJE Team within our Sex Crimes Division. SAJE stands for Sexual Assault Justice Experts, and three of our team members – a clinical therapist and two victim advocates – are primarily available to listen to (and support) survivors,” Dordulian added.
    “Whether we want to accept the fact or not, sexual assault and abuse affects everyone – it doesn’t matter how much money you have, your ethnicity or religion, where you live, etc. If it’s not happening to you, I can almost guarantee that you know someone or are related to someone who has experienced some form of sexual abuse. In over 20 years of working in this field, I’ve come to realize that sexual violence is blind. And although you may not be aware of it, we’re all connected to it in some way. And that means we should all listen to survivors. And by listening, we become educated to the fact that this is something that affects all of us, and then the stigma is shattered, which is so critical. That stigma has definitely improved in recent years, but we have a long way to go in removing it fully so that more survivors feel comfortable coming forward. I think if we listened to survivors, they’d be much more inclined to do just that when they’re ready,” Dordulian said to RAINN.

  3. Provide Unconditional Support (Don’t Minimize): As we’ve noted in recent blog posts, sexual consent cannot be given while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. One of the worst mistakes an ally can make is minimizing a traumatic event like sexual assault, regardless of what the specific circumstances entailed.
  4. Be Patient: It can be harrowing to revisit a traumatic experience like sexual assault. Hence, let the survivor tell his or her story at his or her own pace.
  5. Don’t Shift the Focus: While it may seem like it goes without saying, if someone is confiding in you regarding a sexual assault, it has everything to do with the survivor (and nothing to do with you). Hence, do not shift the focus or try to make the situation about anything other than the health, safety, and overall well-being of the survivor.
  6. Don’t Give Unsolicited Advice: “Shut up and listen” is an appropriate adage when attempting to be a supportive ally. If a survivor doesn’t ask for your advice specifically, it’s probably best to simply listen and offer support. Moreover, offering advice on what should (or shouldn’t) have been done to purportedly prevent the sexual assault from occurring in the first place is never advisable. Why? Because sexual assault is never the fault of the survivor.
  7. Don’t Ask Invasive Questions: While this may seem like a repetitive suggestion given Tip #2 (to listen), it still deserves mentioning. Asking invasive questions may cause a survivor to withdraw and even recant a report that might deserve to be investigated by law enforcement.
  8. Don’t Make Assumptions: If you weren’t there and didn’t experience the sexual assault first-hand, you have no right to make assumptions.
  9. Don’t Pressure to Report the Incident: As stated previously, coming forward to report a sexual assault can be extremely painful and stressful for survivors. Accordingly, if someone is taking the step of actually confiding in you, don’t pressure him or her to make an official report or file a lawsuit. In many cases, sexual assault survivors need months or even years before they feel comfortable coming forward with any kind of official report (if ever). That’s one of many reasons for California’s extension on the sexual assault civil statute of limitations and removal of the criminal statute of limitations. Survivors will report an incident if and when they are ready. Until then, just offering support can be sage advice.

That said, if a survivor does wish to report an incident of sexual assault (or pursue a civil claim), it can often be an empowering experience. As DLG’s Sam Dordulian has noted in past blogs, confronting one’s perpetrator in court can give a survivor a unique opportunity at justice that includes a sense of empowerment.

“What I’ve found over the years, assisting hundreds of survivors, is that those who have gone through the legal process typically find it very empowering. They were once terrified of this scary predator, but eventually come to realize he’s actually not that intimidating when sitting quietly and meek in a courtroom with deputies standing over him, and is eventually carted away in handcuffs. For the first time, it’s the survivors who are now in control, not the perpetrator. And when a survivor takes back that control from the abuser, it can be incredibly healing. I’ve represented victims on countless occasions who are terrified before taking the stand. However, when they decide to take that step, to walk up, get on the stand and testify before that now meek and incarcerated perpetrator, inevitably they come to magically realize that this awful person who had hurt them so severely no longer has any power,” Dordulian said.

How Long Do California Sexual Assault Survivors Have to File Civil Lawsuits?

For adult sexual assault survivors, the California statute of limitations on sex crimes allows you to file a civil claim up to 10 years after an incident. Moreover, the statute of limitations allows for a three-year window in civil claims where sexual assaults lead to the discovery of a psychological injury, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

DLG is a leading California-based sexual assault firm representing survivors across the United States. DLG offers a unique type of legal representation which includes a four-tiered team of professionals known as the SAJE Team.

DLG’s experienced sexual assault lawyers have helped countless survivors secure maximum financial damages awards.

Our Sexual Assault Justice Experts are here to help survivors secure justice. Contact our top-rated attorneys online or by phone for a free consultation today.

Some of our recent sexual assault civil lawsuit victories include:

For a free and confidential consultation regarding your sexual assault civil claim, contact a member of DLG’s SAJE Team today at 818-322-4056. Our sex crime attorneys have helped victims recover more than $100,000,000 in settlements and verdicts while maintaining a 98% success record.

DLG’s founder and president, Samuel Dordulian, is a former sex crimes prosecutor and Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County with more than 25 years of experience helping survivors of sexual abuse and assault obtain justice.

Go See Sam