It is often very difficult for survivors to talk about sexual abuse.
And in many cases abuse is not reported to the police.
One person is sexually assaulted in the United States every 68 seconds. Every nine minutes he becomes a child, According to RAINN, the country’s largest anti-sexual violence group.
Reporting sexual abuse presents many challenges, including re-traumatizing the victim and fear of being disbelieved. Although abuses are not always reported to police, many survivors still seek treatment, experts said. Franklin Based ASSIST Indiana To tell.
Since its founding in 2016, ASSIST has been at the forefront of tackling sexual, domestic, and other violence. The organization offers free trauma therapy, support groups, and referrals to community resources, as well as crisis intervention, victim advocacy, incident management, and preventative education. These are also the Regional Rape Crisis Centers for Johnson and surrounding counties.
Since its inception, ASSIST has received over 6,000 referrals, including service inquiries and contracts. There have been more than 230 referrals so far this year.
Survivors face many challenges in the aftermath of abuse. The question of whether abuse should be reported is often one of those challenges.
“They may be frightened of the perpetrator. In many cases, the person knows the person and has had a previous relationship, be it a friend, someone close to them, or a family member. They don’t want to talk about it because they don’t think they will believe it,” says ASSIST trauma counselor Jill Gontermann.
Talking about what happened can cause your body to re-experience the trauma, making it an emotionally draining experience, Gontermann said.
Investigators try to avoid asking questions that criticize victims, but if alcohol is involved, they are asked how much they drank. Victims may be reluctant to talk about what happened because they are aware that situations involving alcohol are usually viewed negatively by the public, she said.
They may also blame themselves for what happened or fear that others will blame them. That can silence them and cause them to downplay the trauma, she says.
“After such a traumatic experience, no one wants someone to say, ‘But what did you do to make me do that?'” “Maybe it’s your fault. Could it be?” said Mr Gontermann.
Many survivors are embarrassed and embarrassed. Survivors may also not trust the police or believe the legal system does not work for them. Female survivors may also be reluctant to talk about what happened to male police officers, she said.
Gontermann said the four- to six-hour forensic examination at the hospital can be difficult for victims, too.
“It’s a lot of questions and pictures, and you have the option to do a lot of different things in a forensic examination, but at the same time there are a lot of things that have to go through,” she said.
Given the fear that goes through all the stages, many abuse survivors choose to seek therapy instead, Gontermann said.
Where ASSIST comes in
ASSIST staff are often involved in such incidents after receiving calls from local police or Centers for Hope (programs offered at neighborhood hospitals, etc.). community health and Franciscan Health Provide care and resources to victims of abuse and violence.
“We will be there to respond, work with them through this issue, provide support, help them navigate this situation, and file a police report if they wish.” said Gontermann. “Police officers sometimes refer victims to us because they know how important follow-up support and treatment are.”
However, they also receive calls and messages from the survivors themselves, including walk-ins. She said the nonprofit works with survivors regardless of whether they have been reported to the police.
The Johnson County Attorney’s Office has also sent referrals to ASSIST. Gontermann said the office has advocates who work with all sex crime victims and educate them about the legal process.
ASSIST staff can meet with survivors at any point during the judicial process, from pre-indictment to just before trial.
“Everyone’s healing journey is different,” says Gontermann. “The nice thing about our funders is that they just meet the victims where they are and allow them to be treated as they need to be.”
If charges are filed, the process can be long and difficult for victims. However, ASSIST and JCPO work well together and support them throughout the process, she said.
Behind the scenes, ASSIST helps victims learn coping skills, start the process, prepare for court, and build a good mental health foundation in case they have to go to court. she said.
Awareness of sexual abuse has increased over the past decade, which may be behind the increase in reporting rates.
Especially since the coronavirus pandemic, ASSIST is seeing more and more survivors. Gontermann also said that more and more older people are coming forward with stories of past trauma.
“They are aware of how it is affecting their lives and want to address it,” she says.
With media coverage of sexual assault and harassment increasing over the past decade, people seem more comfortable talking about sexual assault and harassment and seeking help for abuse. Gontermann said more people were more open to believing victims.
ASSIST has also been on the rise since the school began conducting abuse prevention education programs. The curriculum ranges from kindergarten to grade 12 and is designed according to age. Victim advocacy group Tracy McQueen said by teaching children the signs of sexual abuse and what to do, they’re learning it’s okay to ask for help.
McQueen is a victim advocate as well as ASSIST outreach and prevention education. Through its role, McQueen builds partnerships with communities and works with schools on training and curriculum.
ASSIST’s goal is to help other organizations ensure that all Indiana students receive some form of anti-abuse education. McQueen said ASSIST was able to host programs in four counties, including Johnson County.
Locally, the Indian Creek, Franklin, and Greenwood schools have requested ASSISTs to help educate their students. Clark Pleasant’s school used her ASSIST in the past, but she said it has moved the program into the school.
“That’s the goal. If we get in there, they’ll see the importance of it and they’ll do it themselves,” McQueen said.
McQueen said Assist will teach mental health counselors at schools in Franklin this year how to report abuse and how to talk to traumatized children.
The ASSIST curriculum for schools includes reporting, red flags, signs of abuse, boundaries, online safety, and peer-to-peer abuse. Students also learn about commonalities of abuse, such as that abusers often know their victims.
Other parts of the curriculum teach students how to recognize and avoid words commonly used to groom or abuse victims. The curriculum also emphasizes that crimes such as bullying, harassment and sexual abuse are illegal.
“Children don’t know what they don’t know unless they’re taught sometimes,” says McQueen. “They learn that they have a right not to be abused and that such behavior need not be tolerated or kept secret.”
McQueen also teaches students about the concept of trusted adults. She says there should always be two trusted adults inside and outside the home to consult about unsafe behaviors in a child’s life.
In many cases, children are threatened not to tell anyone about the abuse and told that it is their fault.
“It’s the fault of the person doing it, not the person doing it. The perpetrator takes full responsibility,” she said.
ASSIST conducts pre-tests and post-tests for educational classes. She said the scores have improved over the years, which shows that the children retain their knowledge.
Prevention of abuse
Children are given the knowledge to recognize the signs of abuse, including online, and what to do if abuse happens to them. This is important, said McQueen.
“Prevention education ensures that prevention services are in place and children have the knowledge they need to keep themselves safe,” she said.
Online safety is especially important right now, as online incidents can lead to long-term sexual abuse. McQueen said giving students knowledge about the dangers and what to do can help keep them safe.
In 2020, the National Exploitation Center for Missing Children (NCMEC) reported that 21 million child sex abuse material files were circulated online. Last year, that number was up to 32 million and is likely to rise further, McQueen said.
“The nature of the crime has nothing to do with demographics,” she said. “It’s attributed to everything from the dark web to suburban areas to the upper echelons of our society.”
McQueen talks about this with his students, encouraging them to think, prevent and report crime, bullying and harassment.
There are many resources available online to learn more about preventing abuse. McQueen stresses that parents should be aware of what their kids are doing on social media, just like they usually do when they go out with friends.
Children may make mistakes, but parents need to understand that it is part of education too. It’s important to have an open relationship with your children so that they understand that they can talk to their parents about anything that happens.
Just having someone around who knows how to respond to news of abuse can make a big difference for survivors.
“Knowing resources and phrases to help you say it, or just being okay with hearing it, is a huge thing and makes a huge difference for survivors,” she said.
see in numbers
ASSIST Indiana referral number
2023 (to date): 230
*Year-specific data were not available for this period.
** Referrals decreased as ASSIST fired one of its part-time therapists and hired a third victim advocate.
Source: ASSIST Indiana
Sexual Assault and Sexual Abuse Resources
ASSIST Indiana offers 24-hour crisis intervention by calling main number 317-739-4456. Walk-ins are also available Monday-Thursday 9-11am and 1-5pm. Reservations are required on Fridays.
ASSIST Indiana is located at 198 E. Jefferson St., Franklin.
For a complete list of Indiana Coalition resources to end sexual assault and human trafficking, visit icesaht.org/get-help/.
If you need emergency help dealing with a sexual assault, call or text 911 to report the crime.