Advocacy group seeks to promote understanding of sexual assault victims

COLUMBUS, Ga. — The chorus of voices crying out against sexual assault by high profile figures continues to grow.

Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, Columbus Representative Calvin Smyre, Hollywood actor Kevin Spacey, and several more celebrities are all accused of inappropriate sexual advances. In some cases, victims released their stories some 40 or more years after the alleged assaults. Questions swirl around why the sudden timing of victims coming forward.

Advocates from the Sexual Assault Support Center in Columbus remind the community sexual assault can be an incredibly painful and difficult experience to admit. Karin Tyson is a victim advocate who also survived a case of sexual assault.

Karin Tyson is a victim advocate at the Sexual Assault Support Center in Columbus. She says she uses her own experiences of sexual assault to help and inspire others to recover.

“The trauma affects us all differently,” she says.

Tyson says many victims, especially children, feel shame and fear in admitting when they’ve been assaulted.

“They’re worried about what mom and dad might think, if there’s pictures they’re thinking ‘Well what if my friends see this?’, how it might affect their college applications or job opportunities down the road, so just imagine that enormous pressure on a child,” Tyson says.

She adds for many young victims, it takes awhile for them to understand that what their attacker did was wrong.

“In their minds, sexual assault is just something they see on TV or in movies where it’s an extremely violent stranger, and so they don’t really coincide what’s happened to them as being as serious, I guess you could say, and so they kind of dismiss it,” Tyson says. “It’s only when they start thinking about it and it makes them uncomfortable and then they’re left with this kind of nagging feeling.”

News 3’s Mikhaela Singleton asked Tyson her thoughts on victims speaking out years — or even decades — down the line after their experiences. She says people should again consider how alone assaults make victims feel.

“They feel so isolated because of it, they feel like something’s wrong with them. And I think a lot of times why they wait so long, people haven’t gotten a chance to heal from it, they haven’t reached out to resources to heal from what had happened, and so they keep it in and keep it in and then finally something could trigger it and it’s like okay I can’t take this anymore, I’ve got to talk to somebody about it.”

She adds recent social media movements and public displays of support may have emboldened victims who spent years thinking they were alone in their pain. She hopes the trend will continue so victims can feel the courage to reach out to resources that can help them heal.

The Sexual Assault Support Center offers many such resources for local survivors who need help overcoming traumatic experiences.

The center offers counseling and financial support for medications, doctor’s appointments, and transportation to therapy services. SASC members will even travel to provide emotional support for victims while they’re reporting their assaults to police, hospitals, or if their case goes to trial.

There will be a women’s survivor group discussion Tuesday, November 14 and every other Tuesday of the month. Click here to visit the Sexual Assault Support Center website or call 706-221-1033. The center also offers an emergency hotline number at 706-571-6010.

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