It’s OK to be scared right now. Many of us are frightened, and with good reason. Sexual assault has been at the forefront of our national conversation as of late, but not because survivors’ voices are being heard. Sexual violence has been normalized, ridiculed even. Political figures and celebrities have flaunted their predatory behavior with no legal repercussion. Rapists on college campuses have escaped their crimes with little more than a slap on the wrist.
I would be lying if I said I haven’t been feeling hopeless these days. But the one thing—and perhaps the only thing—that has helped me get out of bed is knowing that there is some small action I can take every day: a charitable donation here, a kind word to someone struggling there. Maybe it doesn’t seem like much, but I’ve been empowered by millions of other people who are coping the same way.
Even at our most downtrodden, we can still make a difference. It will take time and unwavering strength. Yes, we are scared. But we must keep going. If you’re not sure where to begin helping survivors, here are some ideas for inspiration.
Listen to Survivors
Now more than ever, we must listen to survivors of sexual assault. For too long we’ve questioned, harassed and shamed them. But no longer. We’ve seen what’s happened when we refuse to listen to people who have suffered sexual violence. We must embrace the mantra of supporting survivors, no matter what: “We believe you.” That means coming to survivors free of judgment or shaming, and vowing to keep fighting for them.
There are a lot of survivors who are experiencing anxiety right now, having been triggered by recent events. Help those in your life access critical resources, or if they prefer, simply offer an empathetic ear.
Educate Yourself and Others
Knowing the challenges facing survivors is key to strong allyship. Don’t be embarrassed if you’re not sure how to broach issues of sexual violence. Just taking the time to educate yourself shows your commitment to standing with survivors.
Some Advocacy 101 topics to delve into: smashing stereotypes about survivors and rapists. Considering how you may be perpetuating harmful myths about rape. Learning how rape culture plays into our media, politics, and social interactions. Hell, learning what rape culture is. Being an ally requires some heavy lifting. But we all share the responsibility to educate ourselves for the sake of survivors.
Donate Your Money, Skills, or Time
Charitable donations to organizations that support survivors are critical right now. If you’ve been looking for an opportunity to donate to a wonderful cause, now is a great time. End Rape on Campus is currently holding a Giving Tuesday fundraiser to continue its mission of providing direct assistance to survivors and their communities, offering educational training and resources, and advocating for policy reform on the campus, local, state, and federal levels. You can help fundraise on Tuesday by creating a page here, or just chip in on Tuesday.
If you aren’t able to contribute financially, there are still many other ways to take action. Think about the skills you have to offer: Can you write or edit social media posts? Do you know how to draft policy recommendations? Do you have experience planning events? You likely have more to give than you realize.
Take Care of Yourself
There is so much work to be done, but your activism can’t get in the way of your mental health. Remember, you have to allow yourself to recharge to participate in meaningful work. If the news is too much to handle, take a break from social media. If you feel exhausted, get some rest. Call a friend to vent. And seek help right away if you have thoughts of self-harm. Sometimes the most you can do is be kind to yourself, and that’s a radical act in and of itself.
Know that you are not alone. So many people are hurting right now and so many people understand your pain. But we will get through this, one day at a time.
Julia is a writer and editor based in Washington, D.C. Her passions include creating media for social good, feminism and pizza. She has written for USA Today College, People.com, Parents.com, Healthline and more. Keep up with her writing and random thoughts @Julia_Haskins