Research is burgeoning throughout the fields of public health and psychology that illustrates how simply voicing our experiences about feeling shame brings tremendous relief, and paves the path for recovery. The videos and curriculum that the Powerful Voices Project has developed provide a space for people to speak, heal, listen, and be informed about the epidemic of sexual assault. The impact of sharing these stories and offering context with which to hear them ripples beyond the community of survivors. This approach offers insight to those who have experienced sexual assault, and those who have not, and ultimately increases awareness, empathy, and compassion around the issue overall.
What is Sexual Assault?
There are many different terms used to describe sexual-related trauma, and we have carefully chosen “sexual assault” as one that we feel encompasses the wide spectrum. Overall, sexual assault is, by definition, sexual contact without consent.
Other terms that one might hear, or may consider themselves a survivor of, are: rape, sexual abuse, child sexual abuse, incest, molestation, date rape, forced sex, sexual harassment, domestic violence, sexual violence, among others. We are interested in highlighting the journeys of people who have experienced sexual assault in their lifetimes and who are interested in shifting the discourse towards one of positivity, empowerment, education, and prevention.
The Public Health Perspective
Drawing from the recent educational endeavor of co-creator Becky Fein at Columbia University, PVP takes on a unique approach towards recovery through the lens of a public health professional. Sexual assault is a global pandemic, with survivors around the world exceeding a billion people. A study recently conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and published by the New York Times reveals that 1 in 5 women report having been sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, and 1 in 7 men have experienced violence from an intimate partner – stunning statistics that are undoubtedly under-reported.
Survivors of sexual assault report extremely high levels of short and long term physical and emotional impacts directly related to their experience of trauma. Recognizing that this post-traumatic stress is prevalent among a huge portion of the population, public health efforts around the prevention of sexual assault are vamping up. We are here to ensure that the resiliency and recovery pieces are part of this growing conversation.
The Powerful Voices Project is the beginning of the new face of survivors. As advocates for the positive path of recovery for survivors of sexual assault, we will create a space in which people can share their stories to promote healthy discourse and ultimately prevent further incidents of assault for ourselves and others.