Newton North product, Ali Safran, has started ‘Surviving in Numbers;’ an unbelievable campaign aimed to raise awareness of the sexual assault epidemic at college campuses. Ali and her story have been featured on Katie Couric’s Good Morning America, NBC News, and Huffington Post.
Sexual assault victims can use ‘Surviving in Numbers’ to tell their story, because most victims have a lot of trouble coming out and telling people what happened. Ali and her campaign want to make it easier for those people to tell somebody, so they can be helped. It isn’t easy to share your story and ‘Surviving in Numbers’ is here to make it easier. You can share your story anonymously with a picture, you don’t have to have share anything personal. This way people can be more comfortable.
Ali hopes that through ‘Surviving in Numbers’ the friends’ of the victims will know how to help. A lot of people do not know how to deal with the situation and that makes it more difficult for the victim to tell their story.
Ali was nice enough to talk with TMC, so that we can learn how to help spread awareness:
TMC: Hi Ali, can you tell us a little about your background?
Ali Safran: I’m from Newton, MA, and go to Mount Holyoke College (graduating next month).
TMC: What is the ultimate message you are trying to spread?:
AS: Sexual assault is 100% preventable.
TMC: What is the problem with our culture that men think they can get away with this?
AS: I think everyone would agree sexual assault is wrong and is a crime, but not everyone is willing to recognize a situation lacking consent as assault, and legally, it IS. I’m talking specifically about the hard time men have in recognizing that, and condoning each others’ behavior that may actually be hurtful. It’s hard, but necessary, to call out a friend who’s behaving badly towards someone by sexually harassing or assaulting them; you have the power to save someone from being victimized by intervening. So, sometimes, men can be part of the problem even though they aren’t the ones assaulting others; NOT standing up for someone you see being assaulted is just as damaging.
TMC: Is the government taking the necessary steps in combating this problem?
AS: The White House’s recent creation of a Task Force to combat sexual assaults on campus is a great step, and certainly local legislators across the country are also taking necessary steps by drafting laws to help broaden rights for victims and solidify sanctions for perpetrators.
TMC: How have you helped combat this problem?
AS: Part of why being sexually assaulted is so difficult is because people often don’t believe a victim, or question what that victim might’ve done to “provoke” someone to assault them. Surviving in Numbers aims to convey it is NEVER a victim’s fault when they’re assaulted, and that people in a victim’s life need to be supportive when a victim comes to them. I’ve been training high schoolers and college students on how to step in to help someone and how to support survivors of assault. (Some concrete suggestions: don’t ask someone what they were wearing at the time, or how much they’d been drinking; instead, tell them you believe them and want to help if they want your help)
TMC: What are your goals in combating this problem?
AS: I hope to end sexual violence. Recognizing that’s a large goal and I won’t do it alone, I hope to educate people who don’t already care about the issue and help them become people who care about stepping up for victims of sexual assault — that’s part of preventing them in the first place.
TMC: What is it going to take accomplish your goal?
AS: It’s hard to get people to care about sexual assault, since most people don’t talk about it on a regular basis, and hard to get men to recognize they won’t be seen as “uncool” by calling someone out for harassing or assaulting someone. In my book, and I’d bet for many other women, it makes you a VERY cool guy to step up and call out someone (who might be your friend assaulting) somebody else.
TMC: What can college students do to help?
AS: College students can start by believing anyone who talks about sexual assault stories. Often, people dismiss these stories and think they don’t happen nearby/to people we know/on our campuses, but they do! The likelihood that someone who says they’ve been assaulted is lying is incredibly small, so it’s smarter and more humanly decent to believe them and let them know you do.
TMC: Do you think that fraternities have anything to do with this problem?
AS: Fraternities, especially on some campuses in particular, can be a huge problem. Sometimes, the culture of brotherhood stops “brothers” from calling other brothers out, and that allows sexual assault to continue and become accepted in that frat’s culture. On the bright side, other frats actively work on combating the issue and standing up for people being assaulted on campus.
TMC: Is Newton helping you with your process at all?
AS: I’ve been working a lot with Newton, and so far, have been working heavily at Newton North to train freshmen in their health classes.
AS: Stay tuned for more!
AS: Oh, one additional thing: it’s fucking hard to say to a friend or in public and that you’ve been assaulted! I know multiple people have called me “sad rape girl” after talking about my assault, which a) isn’t true and b) only serves to further silence people. Nobody decides to talk about this for fun, and it has a huge impact on every part of your life if you start talking about it. So the best thing you can do for someone is believe them – to their face AND when they’re not around.