May is an important month as it marks Mental Health Awareness Month. It is a time for us to reflect on the significance of empathy, understanding, and support, particularly for those who have survived sexual violence. At the Rape Crisis Center, our foremost priority is to provide survivors with the necessary resources to heal and prosper. One crucial aspect of this process is cultivating a culture of empathy and kindness within our communities.

Survivors of sexual violence often suffer alone, burdened by the trauma they experienced and the fear of not being believed if they choose to speak out. This Mental Health Awareness Month, it is crucial to understand the significant impact that listening and believing can have on the healing journey of survivors.

Listening is an important act of empathy. It involves validating someone’s experiences and emotions without judgment or interruption. If a friend, family member, or even a stranger, chooses to share their experience with you, it’s important to approach the conversation with an open heart and mind. Create a safe space for them to share by actively listening and offering your support without trying to fix or minimize their pain.

Believing is equally important. Survivors often face disbelief or skepticism when they come forward with their stories. By choosing to believe survivors we send a powerful message that their voices matter, their experiences are valid, and they deserve to be supported. It’s not our place to question or doubt their truth; instead, it’s our responsibility to stand with them, advocate for them, and empower them to reclaim their narratives.

Empathy is not limited to listening and believing a survivor’s story. It also involves providing practical support such as connecting them with counseling services, accompanying them to appointments, or simply being a compassionate presence in their lives. It’s about respecting their boundaries, honoring their autonomy, and allowing them to proceed at their own pace. Let’s recommit ourselves to creating communities where survivors feel seen, heard, and supported. Together, we can create a world where survivors are not only believed but also valued, respected, and embraced for their strength and resilience. If you or someone you know is a survivor of sexual violence and needs support, please know that you are not alone. Our doors are always open, and our team is here to listen, believe, and support you in any way we can.