LOCAL NONPROFIT GUIDES PUBLIC TO BELIEVE SURVIVORS OF ABUSE
When a person tells someone they were abused, it can be a stressful and uncertain experience for both parties. The person disclosing often worries if they will be believed, or if the person they are telling will have a negative reaction. On the other side, the person who is being told may not be certain of what to do or say in this situation. To help make the experience more supportive, WIRC-CAA Victim Services is once again hosting a campaign during the month of April that guides people in what to say and do during this important moment.
“Start by Believing” is a national campaign that seeks to educate the public about how to positively and compassionately react to disclosures of abuse. Victim Services has participated in this awareness campaign for several years during the month of April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Part of their awareness activities include posting information on decorative coffee cup sleeves in partnership with local coffee shops, community outreach activities and displays, and an invitation for businesses and individuals to pledge their support to survivors by participating in a photo campaign.
“Believing a survivor is more important than many people realize,” says Victim Services Public Relations Manager Jamie Roth. “When survivors are seen, heard, and respected by you, that compassionate response can lift a weight off their shoulders. Believing someone is powerful.”
Victim Services has created a three-step system that guides concerned individuals in the right direction: 1) Start by believing the survivor; 2) Respectfully, ask how you can help; 3) Give them Victim Services’ free and confidential crisis hotline number (309-837-5555) so they can speak with a trained counselor or legal advocate about their situation when they are ready.
The most vulnerable of survivors, children, especially need adults to believe them when they say they have been inappropriately touched or assaulted. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in three girls and one in four boys experienced attempted or completed rape between the ages of 11 and 17.
“Children need us, as adults, to be aware of the signs and symptoms of abuse, and children need to know they have adults who believe them and are willing to do something to help,” said Victim Services Associate Director Alisha Eidson.
While every person and situation are different, potential signs of abuse in children, and some adults, include a sudden change in behavior; frequent nightmares; sudden negative change in academic performance; physical injuries; depression; anxiety; substance abuse; or other changes that seem out of character for that person.
Victim Services wants to remind the public that mandated reporters, like teachers, should contact the Department of Children and Family Services if they believe a child is being abused. Anyone of any age is welcome to call Victim Services to speak with an advocate or counselor at no charge.
If you are a business or individual that would like to pledge your support to survivors, call Victim Services’ business line at 309-837-6622 to schedule free photo-op.
WIRC-CAA Victim Services is a nonprofit that provides free and confidential crisis counseling, medical advocacy and legal advocacy to child and adult survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, and stalking. The Agency’s service area includes multiple western Illinois counties.
If you have witnessed or experienced abuse at any point in your life, you are welcome to call Victim Services’ free and confidential crisis hotline at 309-837-5555.