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Aly Raisman: Your Voice Has Power

This week, I had the privilege to meet Aly Raisman and hear her speak about her experience with sexual assault.  Aly is not only an accomplished athlete, but also a strong advocate for survivors of sexual assault.  I wanted to share a few key points that Aly made and reflect on them here.

Survivors have the right to feel anyway they want.  Going through an experience as traumatic as sexual assault has a significant impact on someone's day to day emotions.  Every day is different, and how someone copes each day can change.  Each person will experience sexual assault differently, and it is no one's place to judge how one person handles the situation.

It's okay to not be okay.  We have seen many brave survivors share their stories, but it's important to remember that although they may seem like they have overcome the experience and are doing fine now, we don't know what they are feeling beyond the times they are in the media.  For many, the various feelings following a traumatic experience never completely go away.  And it's okay for survivors to feel whatever they are feeling, and to ask for help.  Let's keep in mind though that we cannot expect survivors to do all the work, our communities need to find ways to be supportive and fight for survivors also.

Survivors should not be expected to share their experiences.  We have seen many people come out and share their experiences recently with the #metoo movement, which has been great and raised a lot of awareness.  But it's important to remember that not everyone is able to share their story.  They may be in fear, they may not be able to communicate due to a disability, they may feel ashamed, or they may just not want to talk about it.  And that's okay.  As a community, we need to raise our voices for those who can't, and speak out against sexual assault, rape culture, and domestic violence at every opportunity.

Education.  Aly talked about how the adults that received reports of Larry Nassar's atrocities were not helpful or supportive.  They were not educated in how a prominent doctor could groom and manipulate young girls and women into trusting him.  If adults are not educated, how can we expect children to know who to trust and what to do when someone is making them uncomfortable?  Change starts with each of us, so we all need to be educated on warning signs of sexual abuse, how to respond to reports from people we care about, and how to support survivors.

Aly has helped to create a resource to provide education and training to adults on identifying and reporting child sex abuse, being the trusted adult, and responding to a report of abuse.  Please visit the Darkness to Light website for free trainings and resources.

I want to thank Aly for her continued efforts to raise awareness and confront a difficult topic, and for sharing her experiences and insights with us.

Thanks for taking the time to educate yourself!

Ellen Merker

Owner, Advocate

Heart Consulting, LLC

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