The biggest reason why domestic violence and sexual assault remain so prevalent today is because of silence and lack of knowledge. If you don’t think they’re still common, you should know that one in eight women will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime. In Utah, women experience more than 160,000 intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapes each year.
In addition to the immediate trauma caused by abuse, domestic violence also contributes to a number of chronic health problems including depression and substance abuse. Additionally, this abuse often limits a woman’s ability to manage other chronic illnesses.
If you’re the victim of domestic violence or sexual assault, it’s very important to know you’re not alone. If you know someone who’s suffering from domestic violence, do something. Talk to friends and family about what’s going on, and use resources like hotlines and support groups to learn more about what can be done. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. Don’t be afraid to reach out and offer help. These conversations can be difficult and delicate, but we need to have them.
Here are some tips to help you identify domestic violence and sexual assault, and ways you may be able to offer support:
- Listen. If someone tells you they’re experiencing abuse right now, or have been abused or sexually assaulted in the past, remember this could be the first time they’re telling someone. Listen carefully and let them know they’re not alone. This simple gesture can make a huge difference in their recovery.
- Don’t judge. Let them know the abuse is not their fault, and reassure them there are services and resources available to provide help and support. Whether or not they choose to find help, respect their decision and let them know you’re available to help whenever they may need it.
Unfortunately, there are many reasons why victims stay in abusive relationships. They may leave and return to the relationship many times even though the abuse continues. Don’t criticize their decisions or try to guilt them, because it’s during these times when they need your support more than ever.
- Spend time with them. Participating in activities outside of the relationship and spending time with friends and family can be an important step for someone in an abusive relationship. Support is critical and the more they feel supported by people who care for them, the easier it will be for them to take the steps necessary to get safe and stay away from their abusive partner.
- Encourage them to seek help. Find a local domestic violence agency that provides counseling or support groups. You can even offer to go with them to a meeting or appointment. If they have to go to the police, court, or a lawyer’s office, offer to go along for moral support.
- Remember that you can’t “rescue” someone. Although it’s difficult to see someone you care about get hurt, ultimately they’re the one who has to make the decision about what they want to do. It’s important for you to support them no matter what they decide, and help them find a way to safety and peace.
You can call one of these hotlines to find local support groups and information on staying safe. If you or someone you love is in a violent relationship, these organizations offer FREE help, and are open 24 hours a day/seven days a week:
- Utah Domestic Violence Link Line:1 (800) 897-LINK
- Rape & Sexual Assault Crisis Line: 1 (888) 421-1100
If you’re outside the Salt Lake Valley, there are still many resources available. Check out the Rape Crisis Resources for Utah.
VIDEO - Lupe Cruz discusses domestic violence on Good Things Utah.