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It’s Not Your Fault: Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Content Warning: Please be advised that the following blog addresses sexual assault and harassment, topics that some readers may find triggering. If you or someone you care about has experience sexual assault or harassment of any kind, please call 800.656.HOPE for confidential support, information, advice or a referral. Trained counselors are available 24/7.

 

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), sexual assault is any form of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim.

Author, Harvard business graduate and Robin Coach, Nyeesha Williams has over 20 years of experience in women’s health, clinical research, and trauma release. We sat down with her in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness & Prevention Month to discuss recommendations and resources for those who have experienced sexual assault, as well as for their loved ones.

Why is it so important to make children and young adults aware about sexual assault?

The idea of sexual assault was planted in my head at an early age. Most times it was discussed in the context of uncomfortable situations such as going into a room with someone or walking down a dark alleyway. As I look back, the definition of sexual assault that I was taught was very limited. Recognizing the need for an age appropriate delivery, a broader explanation of what constitutes sexual assault needs to be taught.

We must teach children and young adults at all stages of life that ‘No means No’ and that anything outside of your verbal consent with full cognizance is wrong.

What helped you open up about your sexual assault?

Have you ever heard of “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel Van Der Kolk? The book essentially touches on how trauma rewires the brain to create dissociated memories. One day, 5 years after my assault, I was walking alone towards my car in a supermarket parking lot and began to smell the man who assaulted me 5 years prior. I was fully aware that we now lived in different states, but my body tricked my mind into believing that he was near me. I panicked and ran to my car, as if he was chasing me, and I blacked out.

I knew the moment I gained consciousness that I needed to use my voice to create change for others like me.

What do you recommend teens do if they have been sexually harassed or assaulted? What are the best ways to process and heal from the experience?

My #1 recommendation for teens who have been sexually assaulted or harassed is to first know that you were the victim and this wasn’t and still isn’t your fault.

If at any time in your life you have felt uncomfortable, unwanted, disrespected, unseen, or unheard, I would suggest you seek a professional to assist you with evaluating your next steps. Speaking out about your experience in small groups, blogs, and during non-profit functions can help you release the weight while also inspiring others to do the same. Introducing alternative therapy like journaling, positive affirmations, meditation and yoga can also assist you with your healing journey.

What should you do if a friend or student tells you they’ve been sexually assaulted?

My advice would be to listen. Listen to everything, even the things your friends aren’t saying.

This is a very vulnerable moment in their lives and expression shows up in our body language. After, and only after they’ve expressed themselves, can you reassure them that you will support them in the healthiest way including a gentle suggestion that they speak to a professional. Also keep in mind that during this dialogue between you and your friend, there should be no judgement, no questions that may imply it’s their fault, and no laughing in their face. This calls for active listening and an empathic ear.

Do you have any resources you’d recommend to raise awareness for sexual assault?

I would recommend RAINN- Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network, TBTN- Take Back the Night Foundation and www.NyeeshaWilliams.com.

About the Coach

Nyeesha D. Williams.

Nyeesha is an accomplished author and recent graduate of Harvard Business School. With more than 20 years of experience in women’s health, clinical research, and trauma release, Nyeesha helps Robin students find their purpose and become more self-aware.

Meet Nyeesha