VCU Health sexual assault awareness advocates address key questions in Twitter chat

As part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, VCU Health hosted a Twitter Chat on April 21 with Caitlin Shiflett, victim advocate and Project EMPOWER coordinator, and Lisette Johnson, a domestic violence survivor and Project EMPOWER peer advocate, who answered questions about healthy sexual behavior and clear definitions about consent in relationships.

Project EMPOWER, which is under the Injury Violence and Prevention Program umbrella, is a multidisciplinary initiative dedicated to enhancing prevention and intervention services for individuals who experience intimate partner violence or sexual violence and their families.

Below are their replies to some of the questions raised on Twitter.

Stay engaged with future VCU Health Twitter chats by following @VCUHealth on Twitter and searching for the hashtag #VCUHealthChat.

How common is sexual assault?

Every 107 seconds an American is sexually assaulted. One in five women has experienced completed or attempted rape and one in 15 men, as well. However, 68 percent of the time sexual assault is not reported.

What prevents survivors from reporting sexual assault?

Fear, embarrassment, shame, self-blame, stigma and lack of knowledge on resources for help are reasons persons don’t report sexual assault.

How do you support someone who discloses sexual assault?

Start by believing the survivor. 

Start by believing the survivor. Ask what they feel comfortable sharing and how you can support them. It may be just listening, a hotline call or accompaniment to the hospital or police station.

What is ‘consent’ with regard to healthy sexual behavior?

Consent consists of individuals who are on the same page about sexual activity. If fear is in the room, consent is not.

Are there situations where consent cannot be given?

If someone is impaired emotionally, intellectually, physically through the use of drugs or alcohol, they can't consent.

Is it considered sexual assault if you know the person or are in a relationship or married?

Four out of five survivors are assaulted by someone known to them. Consent should be expected in relationships, too.

How are domestic violence and sexual assault related?

Control and entitlement are characteristics of abusers. Sexual assault is used as one way of control.

What does VCU Health do for survivors of sexual assault?

VCU Health offers confidential advocacy through Project EMPOWER, resources and specialty medical services through our forensic nursing team.

What are some local resources in addition to VCU Health?

The Greater Richmond Regional Hotline is available 24/7 every day of the year. People can call 804-612-6126 to speak with an advocate. The national number is 1-800-656-4673.


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