She did nothing wrong.
How could it be wrong to go for a walk in your own neighborhood?
And if she had left her home five minutes earlier, would he have chosen someone else? She will second guess every moment of that night for the rest of her life.
How could she have any idea that she would be raped? How could she be raped?
She’s a mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend.
She could be your mother, your wife, your daughter or your friend. But she isn’t alone. She is just one of many survivors of sexual violence in Northeast Florida.
The statistics are alarming: 1 in 6 women in Florida is raped, according to the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence.
Each April, we recognize Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which was started in 2001 by the National Coalition Against Sexual Assault as a time to raise awareness regarding the crime of sexual assault.
LIVES ARE DEVASTATED
Since its beginning, the month has brought public focus to a crime that devastates lives — a crime so invasive, so personal, that surviving doesn’t always feel like an option.
Yet, thousands of survivors right here in Northeast Florida work every day to overcome the trauma and the life-long emotional effects of sexual assault, many hiding behind the stigma still associated with this heinous crime.
As executive director of the Women’s Center of Jacksonville, I want to take time this month to speak to the survivors here on the First Coast, ensuring they know there is a resource in our community to help them.
As the only certified rape crisis center in Duval, Nassau and Baker counties, the Women’s Center of Jacksonville conducts an average of 300 sexual assault forensic exams each year.
And we also have a 24-hour Rape Crisis hotline that fields an average of 3,000 calls annually. Our trauma informed counseling services focus on helping victims become survivors.
Sadly, these statistics are a small part of a larger picture. Many sexual assault survivors elect not to report the crime. They privately grieve and try to regain control of their lives.
TOO MUCH SILENCE
They suffer silently because we have a culture of victim blaming that asks, “Why were you drinking so much? Why did you go with him? Why did you wear that? Why did you walk alone? What were you thinking?”
We must change the conversation; we must talk about consent. Silence is not agreement; incapacitation is not acquiescence.
Sexual assault is a crime, and survivors of sexual assault should feel no shame or guilt.
We must as a society place blame where it belongs — on the rapist.
As a community, we need to support survivors of sexual assault in Northeast Florida.
If you or someone you know needs help, The Women’s Center of Jacksonville is here for you every day of the year.
Reach out to us at (904) 721-7273. Let’s work together to stop sexual assault this April and forever.
You are not alone.
Teresa Miles is executive director of the Women’s Center of Jacksonville.