a blog and resources for trans survivors and loved ones

  • Empowering.
  • Healing.
  • Connecting.

During Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), many organizations share statistics about how sexual violence impacts different communities. We’ve done this in the past, and there are good reasons to share this kind of data. Understanding the scope of the problem can help to raise awareness about the prevalence of sexual violence. It’s especially important for trans and nonbinary survivors to know that they aren’t alone, and for service providers to understand how prevalent sexual assault is among the trans communities they serve. 

For some survivors, seeing stats about how common sexual assault is might feel affirming of their experiences. It may also reflect more widespread awareness that might not have existed when they experienced violence. 

At the same time, one survivor experiencing violence is too many. Whether prevalence rates are 10% or 50%, acknowledging, validating, and supporting people who have experienced sexual violence is what’s important. It doesn’t matter if you’re 1 in 10 or 1 in 2; your experiences matter. Your healing matters. You matter. 

You might notice that we aren’t sharing statistics this year about sexual assault in trans communities. This is for several reasons. While we do a lot of training and education with service providers, who may really benefit from a broad view of sexual violence in trans communities (including statistics), we always want to be careful to not use statistics in ways that might re-traumatize people or cause harm or overwhelm. This is especially true when we are working directly with trans and nonbinary survivors. We want the content we share to be useful, relevant, and not add additional layers of harm to community members who have experienced violence. 

For trans and nonbinary communities in particular, seeing high rates of sexual violence against trans/nonbinary people might contribute to feelings of hopelessness or inevitability. For those who haven’t experienced sexual violence, folks might be thinking: “Does this mean that it’s definitely going to happen to me?” For those who have: “Where do I go from here?” or “Why does this happen so often to my community?”

Many trans survivors are already aware of the prevalence of sexual assault and other forms of violence in our communites, based on our own personal experiences and or from people we know. Being reminded of negative past experiences may be especially upsetting during awareness months like SAAM, leading some people to avoid social media or be conscious about their use so they can avoid seeing prevalence rates and sensationalized stats.  Without providing additional resources or support alongside these numbers, statistics can feel like a devastating reminder of the harm we have experienced. 

All too often, trans people are reduced to statistics. Frequently, we don’t hear the full story, and the uniqueness of individual experiences. We are complex and multi-faceted. Each of our stories are unique, and each of our paths to healing is equally unique. Trans and nonbinary people cope with sexual violence in different ways, and while hearing stories may also bring up challenging emotions and reminders around past trauma, there is also room for complexity, healing, and connection. 

So during SAAM, we might be thinking of ways to raise awareness without causing additional harm. How can we go about doing this? 

Consider sharing non-statistical information this SAAM, including stories from trans survivors that highlight a breadth of experience, including the potential for healing. For some ideas on survivor stories to share, check out these videos from the SPEAK OUT project.

In addition to sharing statistics, think about also including direct resources that survivors can access. This might include helplines like RAINN, the National Sexual Assault Helpline, Trans Lifeline, or even the Trans Survivors blog, where community members can find personal stories, resources, direct support, and more. 

For some people, it can feel important to take action vs. posting about stats. There are things we can do every day of the month to raise awareness and reduce violence. Check out the list of daily trans-focused action items we shared last year: #30DaysOfAction. One or two actions might spark your attention and encourage you (or you and your friends) to pursue some. For many of us, taking actions – big or small – can help us feel empowered, involved in our communities, and doing something to reduce sexual violence. 

It’s important to be aware of your emotions and take care of yourself during awareness months. Last year, Emil wrote about ways that people might balance the complex emotions that come up during SAAM; how we can take care of ourselves while also finding whatever amount of involvement or connection to SAAM that we feel comfortable with. Some possibilities might be: taking a break from social media, being selective about when and how we share our stories, and practicing self-soothing techniques like deep breathing or grounding

Finally, sharing a message of solidarity and support can go a long way. Let trans survivors know that you are an affirming person to come to when they need support. “I’m here for you. I see you. I believe you.” Using a physical card like this is another way to share the specific ways you’re willing and able to be there for a trans survivor in your life. 

During SAAM, knowing and sharing the numbers is just one piece of the puzzle. We can make greater change in our communities by sharing resources for survivors, uplifting survivor stories, taking action to reduce violence, and taking care of ourselves during a time of heightened emotion and reminders of trauma.