Amy Johnson: Dear survivors of sexual assault in Federal Way

Dear Survivors,

I believe you. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and I want you to know that I believe your stories, I see how prevalent you are in my community, and I honor your experiences.

Whether you are boldly proclaiming #MeToo, or suffering in silence, I know you are in every Federal Way school, as students, and as faculty; as athletes, scholars, coaches and advisors.

I am aware that you are in every place of business, as owners, employees and customers.

You work for the City of Federal Way, for department stores, movie theaters, restaurants, service providers, libraries, medical facilities and more.

I know you attend churches in Federal Way every Sunday, and mosques and temples other days of the week — sometimes at the same place of worship as your abuser or assaulter.

I understand that you represent every gender and every sexual orientation. You are single, married, in a relationship and dating. You represent every ethnic group in our community.

I know you are our leaders, our mentors, our hope for the future.

And I know you are strong because you’ve survived. You’ve survived demeaning comments, injuries to your bodies and wounds to your souls. You’ve survived being blamed for what happened to you, self-doubt, rage and depression. Many of you are actively surviving these things each and every day.

Sexual assault is horrific and inexcusable. Yet, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 57 percent of women and 42 percent of men experience some type of sexual abuse by the time they reach age 17. And for all the press it gets, it’s important to know that research shows that only between 2 percent and 10 percent of all reports are false.

With numbers like these, we all own this problem. We all have responsibility to change how we talk about sexuality in our homes, our schools, our workplaces, our places of worship.

It’s up to each of us to know and teach all our young people that verbal harassment is harassment. It’s not OK.

It’s up to each of us to know and to teach about consent — full, ongoing, enthusiastic consent — and to start with young children regarding how they play and touch each other. We cannot afford to wait until the teen years or college to teach about this crucial topic.

It’s up to each of us to stop shaming and stigmatizing survivors, and to start recognizing the resilience, strength and healing of those among us.

It’s up to each of us to model healthy relationships, communication, and affection for the children in our lives.

It’s up to us to continually improve how we address these issues, so that we are not blaming those who are assaulted, and so that we are educating people about how not to unintentionally become a perpetrator. So, while we’re doing the work that needs to be done to make this a better community, a safer community, a more compassionate and educated community — I want you to know. I believe you, and I believe in you.

Amy Johnson, MSW, is a trainer and educator in the Pacific Northwest. She is co-author of three books and facilitates classes and workshops in the Puget Sound area. Amy specializes in sexuality education and in promoting safe and healthy sexuality culture in faith communities. All opinions are her own. Contact: comments@diligentjoy.com.

More in Opinion

Uneven turnout despite issues

In the short-term, the big news was the defeat of the advisory vote to allow pot stores in the city limits.

Swan song: Sex in the Suburbs signs off

Whether you are saddened by this news or jumping for joy, I’ll still be around, doing what I do.

Elections aren’t done, but candidates thinking ahead

Planning for 2020 state races has been going on for months, as has the maneuvering for the next city and county races in 2021.

Vote yes on Initiative 19-001 for Stable Homes

As a teacher at Thomas Jefferson High School or the past 25 years, I know the importance of stable housing for our children’s education.

Initiative 19-001 will make city less safe, less affordable

Initiative takes our community in the wrong direction by jeopardizing safety, driving up rent costs.

In support of regulated cannabis in Federal Way

I trust that allowing a legal substance that is well regulated can be appropriately integrated into the fabric of our community.

Do what is right: Vote no to cannabis shops

We still have far too high of crime rate, but at least without pot shops, we are moving in the right direction.

Edwards and Magruder: Controversial contrasts

Sharry Edwards’s race for council and Tenya Magruder’s run for school board were noteworthy for their choices that created controversy.

Virginia Mason Federal Way Medical Center hosting drug take-back event Oct. 26

Event will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Federal Way police dedicated to breaking the cycle of domestic violence

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Elections: What compass will Federal Way follow?

Here are some random observations on the candidates.

Why did Magruder donate large sum to white supremacist?

‘Sometimes … you take a chance on something and find out it maybe wasn’t the best move.’