Caring for sexual assault survivors

Caring for sexual assault survivors

Randy Ellison wrote movingly of waking up to a woman's sobbing and the stark fact of sexual violence in our midst (see April 7 guest opinion "Sexual violence happens in Ashland"). "What can we do "¦ to aid these victims and work toward peace and safety for all?" he asked. "I just don't know what to do."

Mr. Ellison, you have already done something. By insisting that we face this epidemic — "epidemic" is the American Medical Association's term — you are helping break the silence that keeps victims hidden and assailants free. By refusing to dismiss sexual assault as a "woman's issue," by claiming it publicly as your own, you are setting an example for us all.

So please keep speaking out. And know that there are other simple, crucial steps we can all take together.

First, we can learn where a person who wants help can get it. The Jackson County Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) provides free, compassionate care at all three local hospitals. Our partner, Sexual Assault Victim Services (SAVS) of Community Works, runs HelpLine (779-HELP) and has advocates available 24/7. SART also runs a free sexual assault survivors' healing group (951-0859). For more information on SART, visit www.jacksoncountysart.org or call 840-0904.

Second, we can examine the misconceptions we all carry that make prosecuting this crime so hard (www.jacksoncountysart.org). We can face down the fears that they feed.

Third, know that Oregon does not fund SARTs as other states do. If we believe that sexual assault services are vital to our community, we must be willing to donate to support them.

It's possible the woman Mr. Ellison heard is one of the several we've recently cared for. More likely she's still out there, afraid she won't be believed. So please do whatever you can to let her know she is not invisible and not alone. Give her hope. Show her that we as a community are committed to helping her heal.

Judith Rosen

Jackson County Sexual Assault Response Team (SART)