DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Since the onset of the pandemic people have started to do more things virtually, and the YWCA Dayton believes this might be one reason attendance for its online sexual assault support group is up.
“We do know, nationally, that every 73 seconds an American is sexually assaulted … and specifically women, that it’s one out of every six American women have been victims of either attempted or completed rape in their lifetime,” said Megan Garrison, sexual assault program educator at the YWCA Dayton.
Garrison said that the increase in survivors and allies using their virtual support groups reflects the prevalence of sexual assault, adding there could be a few reasons why more people are now choosing to seek help.
“If you were in a situation where you were living with an abuser in the past, maybe your way out was going to work or going somewhere that wasn’t at the home. And so now what we’ve seen happening, is that people are now at higher risk if they are living [with] or around their abuser,” she explained.
Another potential cause for the spike she said, is that their virtual support groups, one of which is chat-based, offers a higher level of anonymity than in-person meetings. And while more research needs to be done to determine exactly what’s causing the spike, Garrison said those who report assault need to be taken seriously both now —during sexual assault awareness month — and every other day of the year.
“I think this month is really important, especially when we’re talking about the narrative, and I think just to kind of encourage people to believe survivors. And if you are a survivor or you’re in contact with a survivor, to know that you are not alone.”
Garrison said the YWCA and other community organizations offer a variety support groups for survivors, in addition to ongoing classes for friends and families supporting those who’ve experienced sexual violence.
To learn more about those support groups, call the YWCA’s crisis and domestic violence hotline at 937-222- SAFE (7233).