The kidnapping and sexual exploitation of the three young women in Ohio is a stark reminder that rape and sexual assault occur in our communities at alarming rates and are frequently hidden from detection.
It’s also an extraordinary example of the critical importance of access to quality services and supports from a trained rape crisis counselor as well as prevention, bystander intervention, and education about sexual violence.
Rape and other forms of violence are used as tools to coerce, control, and dominate. Intimidation, threats, and isolation from family and friends, in this case quite literally, reinforce messages from perpetrators that no one cares what happens to their victims and creates barriers to getting help.
Understanding the trauma that these young women and all sexual assault survivors endure helps to explain why escaping is harder than it sounds.
There is a ray of hope in this story. When a neighbor helped free these three women, he demonstrated the power of bystander intervention. It’s so much easier to not get involved, to think that it’s not your business. Sexual offenders thrive when no one acknowledges directly that their behavior is unacceptable or holds them accountable.
Learning how to talk about these issues and what to do or say when someone you know is either the victim or perpetrator of sexual assault, or when you suspect they might be, can save someone’s life. Rather than ignore warning signs or turn away from someone in need, each of us can be that lifeline.