You know them more than you think you do

Kellie Nock

Chances are you know her.

She might be your friend or a family member. She might be the girl you sit next to in economics, or the girl who shares her notes with you when you miss a day. You may know her really well, or maybe just barely, but you do know her.

She was harassed or assaulted. She probably hasn’t told you, but maybe she did. It’s hard to find the “right way” to talk about it. There’s no guidebook on what to do when someone confides in you that they were sexually harassed or assaulted. No right words to say.

The United States Department of Justice said one out of every four female undergraduates will be victim to some form of sexual assault. Of course, many of these instances go unreported. In fact, about 70 percent of victims don’t inform police.

This isn’t exclusive to women. According to the 1in6 — a group that helps male victims of sexual abuse get information and support — about one in every six males experiences some form of sexual abuse before they turn 18. Men often don’t report these crimes because of the stereotype that men have to be tough and cannot be assaulted.

So yes, you probably know him, too. Maybe he plays on the basketball team with you, or maybe he’s your partner in biology lab. Maybe he hasn’t told anyone because he’s embarrassed, ashamed because of the expectations society lays upon him.

Often, the violence that transgender and non-binary people face goes unreported as well. The National Resource Center on Domestic Violence said about 47 percent of trans and non-binary survey respondents said they’d been sexually assaulted in their lifetime. These numbers were higher for individuals of color.

And yes, you know them, too. Maybe they are in the same club as you. Maybe they’re your best friend. Because of the vulnerability of these groups, people who intend to do harm are more willing to choose them, as they are aware the statistics show they won’t get caught. It’s evil and insidious.

It’s easy to turn a blind eye to the ugliness of the world. It’s easy to put it out of our minds as a way of not dealing with it. It’s harder to confront the truth, but without these confrontations, we cannot begin to help heal, or, alternatively, heal ourselves.

So talk to people. Be there when they need an ear or a shoulder or a hug. Because you know them — we all do.

Kellie Nock is a columnist. Contact her at [email protected].