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    Jessie - Sexual Assault Advocate
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Remembering Survivors of Sexual Assault during Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

The month of September is devoted to raising awareness about the prevalence, causes, treatments, and risk factors for suicide in order to aid in suicide prevention. This month, Tri-Valley Haven has been thinking of the many survivors of sexual assault that do not survive suicide. Too many lives are taken by suicide each year. This is a time to support those affected by suicide and to raise awareness. There has been an important correlation made between sexual assault survivors and suicide that the public is often unaware of.

Depression can often occur as a result of stress, hurt, or trauma. Experiencing trauma puts one at higher risk for anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression. It is normal for sexual assault survivors to struggle with depression and it is known that untreated depression is a large cause for suicide. Approximately 33% of survivors have had a suicidal thought and about 13% of survivors will attempt suicide(1).

About 44,000 Americans die by suicide each year(2). Many of those individuals are survivors of sexual assault. The existing statistics about the prevalence of sexual assault, suicide, and suicides by sexual assault survivors are believed to be higher than reported, because it can be difficult for people to share these experiences with groups who collect data. Many never report their assault or never do to authorities that collect data.

The stigma around suicide is much like the stigma around sexual assault. There is a stigma about seeking support, sharing your experiences, and reaching out for help.

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At Tri-Valley Haven we support individuals affected by sexual assault through empowerment and encouragement. We incorporate education and advocacy to aid in prevention of the cycle that feeds suicidal thoughts. It is important to have access to resources that address suicidal thoughts and behaviors. 


If you or someone you know is struggling in healing from trauma due to sexual assault, sexual trafficking, or domestic violence, Tri-Valley Haven offers counseling and support groups to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. To make your first appointment or find out more about the groups, please call us at (925) 449-5845.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts trained crisis intervention counselors are available to receive crisis calls and give supportive counseling 24 hours a day, every day at the Alameda County 24-Hour Crisis Line 1-800- 309-2131. Translation is available in more than 140 languages. Teletype (TDD) services for deaf and hearing-impaired individuals is also available. You do not have to be in Alameda County to use this crisis line.

References
1. Caruso, K. (2017). Rape Victims Prone to Suicide. Retrieved from
http://www.suicide.org/rape-victims- prone-to- suicide.html
2. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. (2015) Suicide Statistics. Retrieved from https://afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide- statistics/
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Megan Waggener is a Sexual Assault Advocate and Preventionist at Tri-Valley Haven.  For more information about how you can support our life-saving services for survivors and families, please call our office at (925) 449-5845 or visit http://www.trivalleyhaven.org

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Safety Planning for Survivors in a Digital World

Violence Against Women in a Digital World training!Last week, some of our staff had the opportunity to attend the Violence Against Women in a Digital World training hosted by the City of San Jose and the Santa Clara County Office of Women’s Policy. This training featured presenters from the National Network to End Domestic Violence. It was a fantastic opportunity for our staff, so we wanted to share some of what we learned with all you!

Many abusers and perpetrators may misuse technology to harass, stalk or harm survivors. The abuse can range from sending harassing messages to survivors over Facebook to using GPS or Spyware to monitor survivors. Abusers may also deny survivors access to technology (for example, taking away cell phones or computers) to isolate them from family, friends and resources.

We live in an increasingly technological world. Access to jobs, housing, credit, and more requires us to interact with technology, so the misuse of technology can have major impacts on the wellbeing of survivors. For many people, including survivors, it isn’t possible to stop using technology. This is why it is important for survivors and their loved ones to strategize how they can use technology safely.

Below are some general tips to reduce your risks (whether you are a survivor or loved one) while using technology. Please note, this is not an exhaustive list but rather a few tips to get started.

  • Check your privacy and security settings. Go through any privacy and security settings on any devices you use, as well as any websites you have accounts on. Many devices, apps and websites have “public” set as a default, so it’s important to always check your privacy and security settings.
  • Make sure Bluetooth and Location settings are either limited or turned off. Most phones and smart devices have Bluetooth or Location settings that can be adjusted. Be sure to check if unknown devices are synced with your phone or tablet.
  • Opt out of sharing personal information online. Many websites ask for identifying information; however users are not always required to give this information. If a website requires you to enter personal information, check to see whether this information will appear publicly. Be mindful of what identifying information you post online.
  • Use different usernames and profile pictures. When signing up for multiple online accounts, consider using different usernames and profile pictures for each account. This will make it more difficult for people to search for you online.
  • Talk with your family and friends before they post something about you online. Many social media websites, such as Facebook and Instagram, encourage users to share their location and ‘tag’ who they are with. Tell your family and friends whether or not you want them to tag you in posts or share photos of you. Discuss what information you are comfortable with your loved ones sharing online.
  • Use a safer computer/device. If you believe your computer, phone or electronic device may be monitored, try using a different device that the perpetrator would not have access to – such as a trusted friend’s phone or a computer at a local library. When you are on a safer computer/device, change passwords and usernames.
  • Connect with an advocate. If you or your loved one is a survivor of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking, contact an agency that provides services to survivors of domestic violence/sexual assault. If your partner is misusing technology to harass, stalk or harm you, there is help!

Remember, these tips may not work for everyone. It is important to trust your instincts and do what works best for you. You know what will work or won’t work in your situation.

For more safety tips, we recommend checking out the National Network to End Domestic Violence’s resources on technological abuse: http://nnedv.org/projects/safetynet.html

You can also contact Tri-Valley Haven for shelter and support services for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, homelessness and hunger. Call our 24-hour crisis line at 1-800-884-8119 or visit our website at www.trivalleyhaven.org

 


3a92488Jessie is the new Sexual Assault Advocate on staff at Tri-Valley Haven. She was one of the staff members who had the opportunity to attend the Violence Against Women in a Digital World in San Jose last week.

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