The next steps to overcoming sexual assault

Two weeks ago, Alyssa Milano was among the most prominent Twitter users to ask others who had been sexually harassed or assaulted, to add the hashtag #metoo to their social media accounts. She shared her own experience, and after 24-hours of the tweet being sent out, over half a million people also participated, sharing their own experiences.

Alyssa Milano’s #metoo tweet, made on Oct. 15.

The hashtag was created to publicly share that the women were not alone as a sexual assault victim, and there is a community of survivors.

In an empowerment seminar in Washington, DC, a speaker asked the audience to participate in a test. He asked if they could raise their hands if they had been sexually assaulted, and six or seven hands went up. He asked the audience the same question, but this time had them close their eyes. Almost the entire group of 200 put their hands in the air.

In the United States, 351,500 people a year experience sexual assault, 90 per cent of them women.

The internet, the majority of the time, is unsafe, but with a hashtag movement that is so large and accepting, it can become a safe place. Being behind the comfort of your keyboard can make it easier to share your personal story, and for some, tweeting the hashtag #metoo, was their first time sharing their experience.

This is not the first sexual assault survivors related hashtag movement that we’ve seen. Previously there has been #whenIwas, #carrythatweight, #mysexualassault, #Ibelievesurvivors and others. Each hashtag has created a movement of survivors sharing their sexual assault stories.

But sharing online may not be the best way to seek help. Seeking professional help is ideal, and there are plenty of sexual assault hotlines and websites, where victims can seek the help and community.

A non-profit website, created by a sexual assault victim named Jamie Sivrais, that offers support to sexual assault victims. The website allows people to share their own stories or to read others, and together they create a community where they feel safe, accepted and free of judgement.

A charitable organization, created by a couple who had a passion to help adults who are victims of sexual assault from their childhood. They have online services, counselling, retreats and survivor communities for people to join. Their goal is to help adults overcome their sexual assault, and become survivors.

A 24-hour national sexual assault hotline, where trained staff members are awaiting calls of victims who need professional help.

A centre located in Vancouver, which provides all woman who have experienced any form of sexualized violence with the help and support they need. Their goal is to stop all forms of violence against woman.

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