To the Editor:
Sexual assault is a largely underreported crime with two out of three sexual assaults going unreported, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey, 2010-2014.
As members of the Trauma and Emotion Regulation Lab at Miami University, we research many topics related to sexual assault including the tremendous emotional impact of these experiences.
Emotions such as shame and guilt, both expressed in Ceili Doyle’s brave column last week, are significant, influential factors often underlying decisions not to report sexual assault crimes.
After reading her column in last week’s Miami Student, we would like to acknowledge that Doyle’s emotional reactions are incredibly common for survivors of sexual assault.
We would like to support Doyle and other survivors in acknowledging that different emotional reactions following sexual assault are completely valid and we encourage survivors to seek support. Reactions following traumatic experiences widely vary from person to person, and that is okay.
That does not make their emotions wrong or bad.
We hope that Doyle and other survivors understand that moving on from a sexual assault is difficult to do, but healing and recovery is very possible. However, this does require some reflection, because shutting down or wanting to forget the event can also backfire and make the situation worse.
The statistic that one in four women on college campuses will be sexually assaulted is both startling and horrifying. However, we want to emphasize that sexual assault does not occur because survivors decided to drink or go dancing, or even because they invited someone back to their dorm. The blame in sexual assault lies solely with the perpetrator. Internalizing societal messages about victim-blaming can often increase feelings of shame and guilt.
It is not their fault.
We hope that Doyle and other survivors on Miami’s campus engage in self-care and seek support. We also hope they are able to find safe spaces to process their emotional reactions, whether that is with friends, family or professional resources such as the Student Counseling Center or a personal therapist.
Below, we included a list of resources that Miami University, the Oxford community and the general public offer for survivors of sexual assault.
Student Counseling Services: (513) 529-4634
Women Helping Women: (513) 977-5545
Psychology Clinic at Miami University: (513) 529-2423
National Sexual Assault Hotline: (800) 656-4673