Staff Editorial

Sexual assault knows no political boundaries: Here's how to get help

Customers watch the Sept. 27 testimony of Christine Blasey Ford at Shaw’s Tavern in Washington, D.C. The barrage of news coverage of those allegations and of others can be overwhelming to survivors who must live with their own stories. (Marvin Joseph/Washington Post)
Customers watch the Sept. 27 testimony of Christine Blasey Ford at Shaw’s Tavern in Washington, D.C. The barrage of news coverage of those allegations and of others can be overwhelming to survivors who must live with their own stories. (Marvin Joseph/Washington Post)

If there is one thing everyone, whether liberal or conservative, should be able to agree on, it is that the news cycle these days is relentless.

For sexual violence survivors, that is particularly true.

Kerri True-Funk, associate director of the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said even before discussions about sexual assault allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh dominated headlines during his confirmation process, Iowans were grappling with the violent deaths of Mollie Tibbetts and Celia Barquin Arozamena.

All of that was piled on top of months and months of descriptions of sexually exploitative acts by powerful men as the #MeToo movement gained steam.

“What we are hearing from sexual assault services across the state is ... programs are seeing survivors being triggered by the constantness of it. They’re struggling to meet the requests for services coming in,” True-Funk said. “This has been really overwhelming for a large number of survivors.”

Please don’t get me wrong. Shedding light on the endemic systems that perpetuate sexual violence is important and necessary and overdue. The women and men coming forward with their stories are incredibly brave and deserve respect and empathy.

But the responses to those stories, so often scorn and mockery and even threats of more violence, highlight one reason many survivors don’t report.

“It sends a clear message to survivors that when they are brave and try to do something they feel is right ... it’s going to be met by tremendous pushback, disbelief and at times sheer meanness,” True-Funk said.

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No matter whether you supported or opposed Kavanaugh’s nomination, or where on the political spectrum you fall, I hope people keep that in mind. Sexual assault impacts women and men across the political spectrum. There is a very good chance someone you love has a story, even if he or she hasn’t shared it with you. Don’t forget that person is listening to how you talk about survivors. And don’t forget our children are watching and internalizing all of this.

“There is a way to find this whole process repugnant without saying survivors are terrible people who are lying,” True-Funk said. “Really listen deeply to what survivors are sharing with us and try to understand what it is they’re asking.”

Here are names and contact information for organizations dedicated to helping survivors. They offer 24-hour crisis lines, counseling and more. Several offer culturally-specific services in multiple languages. If you need help, or just someone to talk with as you deal with all of this news, call them. If you want to help survivors but don’t know how, visit their websites to volunteer or donate.

Most of all, take care of yourselves, and each other.

Resources for survivors

Find organizations serving more counties at iowacasa.org. Reach the statewide 24-hour crisis line at (800) 770-1650 or text IowaHELP to 20121 for free and confidential services.

Amani Community Services

Office: (319) 232-5660; 24-hour crisis line: (888) 983-2533; amani-cs.org; program for African-American survivors, serving Black Hawk and Linn counties.

Deaf Iowans Against Abuse

24-hour crisis line: (319) 531-7719; text only: (515) 661-4015; diaaiowa.org; based in Cedar Rapids; program for deaf and hard-of-hearing survivors.

Domestic Violence Intervention Program

Office: (319) 351-1043; 24-hour crisis line: (800) 373-1043; dvipiowa.org; based in Iowa City; serving Cedar, Des Moines, Henry, Iowa, Johnson, Lee, Van Buren and Washington counties.

Friends of the Family

Cedar Rapids office: (319) 826-2075, ext. 300; 24-hour crisis line: (800) 410-7233; fofia.org; serving Allamakee, Benton, Black Hawk, Bremer, Buchanan, Chickasaw, Clayton, Delaware, Dubuque, Fayette, Howard, Jones, Linn and Winneshiek counties.

LUNA: Latinas Unidas Por Un Nuevo Amanecer

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Office: (515) 271-5060; 24-hour crisis line: (866) 256-7668; lunaiowa.org; program for Latino survivors.

Meskwaki Victim Services

Office: (641) 484-4444; 24-hour-crisis line (855) 840-7362; meskwaki.org/community-services/meskwaki-family-services/victim-services; program for Meskwaki Nation and Native American survivors.

Monsoon Asians & Pacific Islanders in Solidarity

Office: (515) 288-0881; 24-hour crisis line: (866) 881-4641; program for Asian Pacific Islander survivors.

Nisaa African Family Services

Iowa City office: (319) 338-7617; 24-hour crisis line: (866) 881-4641; nisaa-afs.org; program for African immigrant and refugee survivors

Rape Victim Advocacy Program

Office: (319) 335-6001; 24-hour crisis line: (800) 228-1625; rvap.uiowa.edu; based in Iowa City; serving Cedar, Des Moines, Henry, Iowa, Johnson, Lee, Washington and Van Buren counties.

Riverview Center

Cedar Rapids office: (319) 540-0080; 24-hour crisis line: (888) 557-0310; riverviewcenter.org; offices in Cedar Rapids, Dubuque, Decorah, Manchester and Waterloo and Galena and Mount Carroll in Illinois.

Transformative Healing

Office: (319) 889-8430; thiowa.org; based in Iowa City; program for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and/or asexual survivors.

l Comments: (319) 398-8339; alison.gowans@thegazette.com

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