Liz Chen is a second year doctoral student in the Department of Health Behavior at the UNC Gillings School of Public Health where she studies adolescent sexual health.
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), there are approximately 293,000 victims of sexual assault each year. Of these, approximately 68% of them are not reported to the police. Four out of five assaults are committed by someone known to the victim and 47% of rapists are a friend or an acquaintance.
While survivors face many real and perceived barriers to reporting sexual assaults to the police, they also face many real and perceived barriers to sharing survivorship stories to friends and family members. A new project, AfterWords, is here to change this leveraging the power of the Internet. AfterWords is a space where survivors can share their stories and build a community.
According to Faith, the founder of AfterWords, she created the site with two populations in mind: survivors and their allies. In addition to providing a way for survivors to connect with each other, she wanted to help allies (friends, family members, partners, etc.) better empathize. She wrote:
I would love AfterWords to become a resource for those who want to increase their understanding and empathy. They have such a powerful role to play in the dialogue, as well, but many might not feel comfortable and confident to take part just yet. With increased exposure to these intimate moments, I hope they feel a burning desire to lend their voices to the cause.
AfterWords is the first website of its kind to highlight the stories of sexual assault survivors and I hope that this kind of project raises awareness of how prevalent sexual assault is in our country among the general public while supporting survivors and allies.