Victims of sexual assault need our help

During the commissioner comments portion of the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners meeting on June 12, District 7 Commissioner Greg Adams dropped a bombshell.

By publicly disclosing that he had been the victim of rape while in the Army, Commissioner Adams added his name to the list of victims of sexual assault. He also shattered the commonly held myth that all sexual assault victims are female. 

Commissioner Adams is in no way alone, for throughout our community there are untold numbers of sexual assault victims, both female and male, and many have not come to grips with the trauma that they sustained at the hands of the predator. That means that we have a lot of hurting souls among us. 

The effects of sexual assault on victims is well-known. Guilt, shame and self-blame are among the many emotional reactions that victims experience.

In addition to anger, sadness, and fear, sexual assault victims often suffer in silence and isolation. Many never tell anybody about what happened to them. It can be years of private suffering before the victim tells anybody about what happened.

In Commissioner Adams’ case, it took 30 years before he told anybody. It should be noted, however, that sexual assault not only affects the victim, it affects the people around them, and it affects the community at large.

People – male and female – who complain of sexual assault need our help.

We must work to create conditions in our society that make it easier for survivors of sexual assault to come forward with their complaints.

While it is a fact that not every allegation of sexual assault is true, each of us should rid ourselves of the belief that the survivor is somehow at fault for what happened to them.

We should be nonjudgmental and empathetic when a survivor comes forward seeking support.

We should encourage the survivor to seek professional help by contacting the DeKalb Rape Crisis Center hotline at 404-377-1428,  and www.dayleague.org

How you respond to the complainant can make the difference between whether the healing process begins, or is buried in private pain and suffering for years in denial and shame. 

Hank Johnson represents the 4th Congressional District, which includes portions of DeKalb, Rockdale, Newton and Gwinnett counties.