by Anna Thompson
Communications and Development, YWCA Northcentral Pennsylvania
In this age of information and awareness, domestic violence and sexual assault are still topics that make people uncomfortable, often to the point where they cannot approach them seriously or honestly. Being uncomfortable is also (and unfortunately) an indication of fear, which can breed violence. When people come face-to-face with those whom they think challenge “traditional” sexual and gender norms, for example, studies show that some scary things can happen.
- Statistics prove that lesbian women are more likely to experience gang rape than heterosexual women.
- Gay men raped by strangers are often blamed for their rape and stereotyped as overly sexual beings who invited the contact.
- Transgender people are often targeted for sexual violence solely because of their gender non-conformity.
After these individuals suffer these hate crimes, their nightmares aren’t over. Many hurdles stand between them and receiving care. If the survivor is not “out” in their orientation, they may fear “being outted” by speaking with a service provider. Transgendered individuals may feel shame or discomfort in their body. Because the LGBTQ community tends to be small and tight-knit, victims may fear losing their anonymity and may have to interact with friends of the perpetrator. There may also be the fear that they will not be treated compassionately by medical, legal and law enforcement professionals because of their identity.
Yes, the YWCA’s mission may begin with “empowering women,” but it certainly doesn’t end there. We believe and will fight for “peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.” We here in Central Pennsylvania take this mission to heart. In our county of 116,000 people, the YWCA provide services to nearly 1,500 men, women and children in our Wise Options shelter – providing safety and support for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and other violent crimes. While one percent of the population might not sound significant – and it might sound cliché to say this – if you can impact just one person, you can change the world.
I often think of a quote by Leo Buscaglia. He said, “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment or the smallest act of caring; all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
That’s what we’re here for: turning lives around through support, education, understanding and helping all victims scale the walls that stand in their way.
(The National Sexual Violence Resource Center served as the main resource for this blog. For more information, visit this site.)
Anna Thompson is new to the YWCA in Northcentral, PA. As a former journalist, Anna’s work focused on local nonprofits. After writing a series of articles on the YWCA, Anna fell in love with the mission and the work done there, and, when the opportunity came to work as the Communications/Development Manager, she knew it was meant to be. Anna is a mother to an 8-month-old daughter and two rescued pit bulls.
This post is part of the YWCA Week Without Violence™ blog carnival on issues of violence in all forms. We invite you to join the dialogue! Post your comment below, share your story on your blog or website, and follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #ywcaWWV.