Creating a safe space for victims to be heard

In the last five years, crime stories we report on are indeed becoming more disturbing. In the last six months we have seen a slew of crime involving sexual assaults. The most upsetting story that has ever come across my desk was this week’s article involving the severe abuse of a toddler. (Read more about this story in this week’s edition). These stories beg the question, why is this happening?

The influx of sexual assault cases is not because we are becoming more violent, it is because we are creating an environment where victims can report such crimes. Society is taking small steps each day to stop shaming victims and start focusing on the perpetrators.

The islands are following the nationwide trend that calls attention to the way we discuss crimes – from sexual assault to domestic violence.

Documentaries like “The Hunting Ground” investigated rape occurring on college campuses and how these educational institutions are silencing victims because they are afraid of losing funding.

Cases like the recent alleged domestic abuse inflicted on celebrity Amber Heard by Johnny Depp have independent media sources asking why we are delving so deep into the actress’ motives and discussing what a nice guy Depp is instead of being horrified that she has been abused.

Last week, Brock Turner, an ex-Stanford student convicted of raping an unconscious woman, was sentenced to just six months. The victim released a letter describing the harrowing experience. It has caused outrage from the public on the injustice of the sentence and the victim-shaming that continues to plague our society. The one solace found in this sickening tale is that the victim has spoken up and the people are listening.

We know that 68 percent of abuse cases are not reported, but we still ask: why are women not reporting these crimes? Look at the above cases and you can easily conclude that the majority of women stepping up to report are swimming against the tide. We can also conclude that the majority of women making false accusations are an extreme minority.

So what can we do here on the islands? We can choose to support the victims of violent crimes, and not defend or excuse the actions of convicted offenders. We can start talking about the reality of crimes occurring in our communities. If you see something suspicious you can contact DVSAS (www.dvsassanjuans.org) and report that you are concerned. We can support programs like DVSAS that not only help heal victims, but also ask the community to take a stance against such crimes. We can take a stand. We can give victims a voice.

Stand up men campaign

If you are a man you can join the Stand Up Men, who take a stand against violence. Last year DVSAS and The Stand Up Men reached out and asked for 100 men to donate $100 to honor a woman in their lives. This year they are asking for 1,000 men to join by visiting www.DVSASsanjuans.org.