NOVA’s Executive Director, Penny Ettinger, wrote an Opinion piece to the Bucks County Courier Times.
We would like to hear your opinion! Please go to the article and leave a comment on the bottom:
Guest Opinion: Let’s foster a culture where victims feel they can speak out
So many of the men who sexually assault children and women are known in their respective communities as “a good man” — the priest, teacher, mentor, boyfriend, grandfather, elected official, lawyer, business leader or husband. Few are complete strangers to their victims.
On the other hand, when women come forward and disclose their abuse, we often wonder “why didn’t she say anything until now?” But the more important questions that we really need to focus on are “What can we all do to help prevent sexual assault?” “How do we provide an environment where every victim can feel safe to come forward?” And lastly, “Why are we blaming the victim?”
The facade of being a “good man” is key to many perpetrators’ ability to maintain social and professional circles so egregious behavior is not so easily recognized. The “good man” can hold exceptional power to control their victim and shame or threaten them into silence. Whether the victim is a child or an adult — grooming from a position of power on the part of the perpetrator is key to controlling a victim.
We would all like to believe that sexual assault only happens outside of our wonderful community. However unfortunate, women, children and men are sexually assaulted every day here in Buck County. Affluence, poverty, race, age, zip code of residence and ethnicity do not define who and where children, women or men will be sexually assaulted. The Network of Victim Assistance is the comprehensive victim services organization and rape crisis center in Bucks County.
NOVA provides counseling and legal advocacy to over 1,600 victims of sexual assault every year. Half of these victims are under the age of 18. These numbers alone are numbing but are really just the tip of the iceberg. All indications are that the majority of victims never come forward, and the majority of offenders are never charged. Based on current Bucks County census data and the Centers for Disease Control statistics on the prevalence of sexual assault, 63,767 women and 4,332 men who currently live in Bucks County will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime.
The long-term emotional, sometimes physical and social impact on victims can be horrific. The economic costs of sexual abuse — lost employment, health care, mental health — are exceptional. The impact on families can be devastating. Yet our instincts are so often to rationalize our beliefs with thoughts like “it doesn’t happen here,” “she was asking for it” or “why didn’t she say anything until now?” The words rape, assault and fondling make us uncomfortable. Adding words like girl, child, mother or elderly makes us feel absolutely sick. Yet we mostly avoid even talking about it.
Let’s be honest with ourselves. Avoiding the issues and the conversations, as difficult as they are, perpetrates an environment that allows assault and rape to continue. Our silence supports a platform in which these so-called “good men” can continue to prey on their victims. To prevent the next sexual assault here is what you can do. Take the “It’s On Us” campaign pledge at www.itsonus.org. Recognize that nonconsensual sex is sexual assault. Intervene in situations where consent has not or cannot be given. Be an active bystander. Don’t blame the victim. Create an environment in Bucks County where sexual assault is never ignored or rationalized. The NOVA 24/7 victim support hotline is 800-675-6900. For more information on prevention and victim services available in Bucks County, email email@example.com. Outside of Bucks County, you can call 800-656-4673.
We would like to hear your opinion! Please got to the article and leave a comment on the bottom: