In the US, 1 out of every 6 women and 1 out of 33 men would have experienced sexual assault at least once in their lifetime. Sexual violence is unfortunately pervasive in our society and domestic violence survivors are no exception.
For Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), DASH would like to highlight the story of Victoria*.
Victoria came to the U.S. with her longtime partner and two young children. Once they came to the U.S., her partner started becoming emotionally, physically, and sexually abusive. She fled her home with her two young children and began couch surfing with the friends and family she had in the U.S.
Victoria was able to connect with DASH and transitioned to her own apartment in the Empowerment Project.
With safe housing secured for her and her family, she quickly obtained a job with the support of her DASH Coach. Her work ethic and persistence enabled her to become more successful in the program. However, it was difficult for Victoria to switch from “surviving mode” to “thriving mode.” Her coach reminded her that it is okay to feel and experience these emotions and to not always have it all together. Addressing the emotions surrounding the abuse on her own terms is the first step towards healing from the trauma of the assault.
Victoria has been catapulted into a new career in the travel industry. She is excited and nervous to leave DASH. Victoria’s story of overcoming sexual abuse and rebuilding her life is a testament to her strength and resilience. She can now successfully provide for her family in a safe home.
DASH recognizes how hard it is to leave a sexually abusive relationship, especially if you have children. One of our coaches, Bruce, gives the following advice for survivors of sexual assault: “You didn’t make a bad choice in choosing yourself. Continue to choose you.”
To learn more about Sexual Assault Awareness Month, you can visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center or RAINN. These websites offer data on sexual violence, national and local resources for survivors, and ways to get involved in activism.
*Name changed to protect privacy
Note: This is the first post in a new blog series by DASH called ‘Domestic Violence Matters’, which discusses current events and media coverage of domestic and sexual violence. We believe that empowering, provocative, and original media and storytelling must play a critical role in helping to overcome domestic violence in our society.
A new campaign, #SurvivorLoveLetter, displays love letters to survivors of sexual assault. The campaign was originally organized as an exercise of healing for survivors, it has spread quickly and widened in scope. Now, family members, friends and even strangers are contributing their love letters to show their support of survivors of sexual violence. In her recent Huffington Post piece, Tani Ikeda, the organizer of the campaign, described it as the start of movement, “Survivor Love Letter enables us to talk about what survivorship really looks like. Through this growing collection of love letters, maybe we can build strategies for the ways we heal ourselves and our communities. I hope sharing our real stories makes other people feel that there is no one right way to heal.”
“I hope sharing our real stories makes other people feel that there is no one right way to heal.” – Tani Ikeda
We love this campaign. The dialogue surrounding sexual and domestic violence is too often clouded by judgement and fear or controlled by outsiders. This campaign not only magnifies the voices of actual survivors, it also sends a message of hope, love and healing. Using Tumblr as the platform for the campaign allows survivors to speak out on their terms, preserving safety and anonymity. They get to control the narrative – with no journalists or marketing professionals inserting their own, however well intentioned, agendas.
Sexual assault is immensely sad, as well as mind numbing, infuriating and sickening. But there is hope for healing, healing that can only happen on the terms of the survivors.
Below some letters that spoke to us – but there are hundreds more at http://survivorloveletter.tumblr.com.
DASH is an innovator in providing access to safe housing and services to survivors of domestic and sexual violence and their families as they rebuild their lives on their own terms.
Note: Some content may be triggering due to graphic descriptions.
Last night, DASH was featured in a lead story on Local Channel 9 news (CBS) about safe housing for survivors of domestic violence, a story that was prompted by the murder on Tuesday in Kensington, MD of Heather Lynn McGuire by her estranged husband, who then committed suicide.
Journalist Gary Nurenberg interviewed DASH Executive Director Peg Hacskaylo, as well as three residents of DASH’s Cornerstone Program, to learn more about safe shelter and how victims of domestic and sexual violence can escape abuse to establish safe, independent lives. The story, which also included footage of the safe housing apartments DASH provides its residents at Cornerstone, was the centerpiece of the feature, which also highlighted the story of the tragic murder/suicide, an interview with Dr. Phil McGraw, and an interview with Yvette McCade, a local survivor of an attempted murder by her estranged husband.
Click here to view the broadcast and read the accompanying story, click here: WUSA 9 DASH Story
If you would like to learn more about DASH and support the work we do to help women and children in our community, our 2nd annual DASH Allies in Change Luncheon is March 28 (2012) at 12:00pm at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill. The lunch is open to the public and tickets can be purchased here: Allies in Change. You can also visit www.dashdc.org for more information or to make a secure donation online.
DASH extends its gratitude to WUSA Channel 9 and Gary Nurenberg for its attention to and coverage of this important issue and the work that DASH does to help survivors and their families.
Last week, the FBI released crime statistics for each state. While DC’s rate for homicide and violent crime on the whole decreased, the rate of forcible rape increased, up to 187 from 2009’s 150. This 24.7% increase is the highest of any state (cities are not documented), with the second highest increase being an 8.9% rise in Nebraska. As a whole, the nation’s forcible rape rate went down 5% last year.
Clearly, these numbers point to the urgent need in our community to address sexual assault. In 2010, the District Alliance for Safe Housing decided to add sexual assault survivors to those for whom it provided service. Domestic violence and sexual assault are often interrelated. Many survivors are assaulted within intimate partner relationships. Additionally, many of those who survive a sexual assault also face the potential for homelessness, especially if the assault occurred in the survivor’s home or the assailant learns the victims’ address. In these situations, it is imperative for victims to have safe housing, much like those escaping domestic violence.
DASH’s housing and services provide critical space and support for survivors of sexual violence to recover from the trauma of victimization and rebuild their lives on their own terms. While the path to healing may look somewhat different from domestic violence, the need for access to safe, affordable housing is a reality for survivors across the spectrum – whether recovering from domestic abuse, sexual assault, trafficking, stalking, or other threat. Providing housing access to sexual assault survivors in our constituent base is yet another way in which DASH aims to be agile, responsive, and innovative in serving those impacted by violence.
Survivors of sexual assault in the District can also access these resources for support.