It's Simple: Believe And Support Survivors

By Katiee McKinstry

How would you feel if the entire world didn’t believe you? For the past 3 years, I’ve volunteered and interned with a company called Rape Response. In light of the Kavanaugh hearing, I thought I would talk - not about the hearing - but about the importance of believing and supporting survivors.

I thought I would start by talking a little bit about what I do as an advocate. My favorite show is Law and Order: SVU, in which detectives tackle cases surrounded by sexual assault and why it’s important to always believe. This show inspired me to help survivors, but being a cop was not a career I wanted to pursue. Not everyone can be Olivia Benson!

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That’s around the time when a professor told me about Rape Response. I applied to volunteer, and next thing I knew I was going through various trainings until I was ready to take call. Taking call means that  I am the advocate answering the sexual assault crisis line.

As a volunteer, I take calls two to three nights a week. This means that I’m answering the crisis line and helping in any way I can. In some cases, I meet survivors at the emergency room while they get a SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Exam). This has been a learning experience for me, as I’ve seen survivors of all ages, genders, races, sizes, and shapes.

My job is to be a helping hand to survivors, and I’m not involved with the hospital or law enforcement. Not all survivors choose to report to the police. They often don’t. I sit there and hold their hands and tears well up in their eyes, and tell them that I believe them. I offer an ear to listen and shoulder to cry on as their exams are performed. Sometimes we don’t talk at all, and sometimes we have engaging conversations about our dogs and our lives. Depending on what the survivor needs, I am there for them.

While being an advocate can be really difficult, I know that survivors often feel like they don’t have a voice. I help them find the words to speak their truth. That doesn’t always mean reporting. Sometimes it’s just about being able to say what happened. I have met people who have lied about being assaulted, but it is very rare. More often than not, survivors struggle to tell their stories to anyone, let alone the police. It is important to believe all survivors, because it takes unbelievable strength and courage to talk about something so horrible.

That being said, can you imagine telling the story of your assault to the ENTIRE WORLD? (Shout out to you, Dr. Ford.) It’s hard enough for survivors to come forward, but Dr. Ford stood in front of the world and told her story. She told it because she felt it was her civic duty to let the country know what kind of man they’re pushing into office. That’s why it’s so important to believe her, for speaking her truth on a massive scale. If Dr. Ford can go on television and tell her story, the least we can do is stand by her side.

Believe and support survivors, always.

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