Standing up to sexual assault – A letter to our Renton community

  • Sunday, June 23, 2019 1:30am
  • Opinion

Earlier this month, we all learned about a sexual assault that took place in downtown Renton, a part of the city King County Sexual Assault Resource Center (KCSARC) calls home. The rapid and thorough response of the Renton Police Department identified a suspect who is now in custody.

The survivor and her family are in our thoughts as she and they heal. Their healing, as well as the legal resolution to this case, will be lengthy and complicated.

The individual who is charged with the assault is a 15-year-old. The process of holding him accountable while at the same time getting him and his family the help they need, will be equally complex.

KCSARC has lived in Renton for over 40 years. We are proud to be part of the community and the downtown neighborhood. We marvel at the river, check out books at the library and frequent the Farmer’s Market alongside our neighbors here.

The assault last month has not changed how we feel about our city. And we cannot allow it to change us or dictate our behavior. It’s particularly important that we engage in all the activities we did prior to this assault. The reality is that we are not any less safe than we were before this happened.

Last year, KCSARC helped almost 5,000 survivors and family members reclaim their lives following sexual assault. Our job is to help survivors understand the assault does not control them. We are practicing for ourselves what we teach survivors, and we encourage our neighbors to do the same.

As individuals struggling to cope with this news, it’s important to remember something about brain science. When confronted by troubling events, especially something so out of the ordinary, our brains go into a fear response. That fear drives emotions that raise our level of awareness and vigilance, which may be appropriate in the moment. For most people, this reaction ebbs over time. If you or someone you know continues to feel on edge or worried, KCSARC is there to listen, always. Our 24-hour Resource Line can be reached at 1-888-998-6423.

We all deserve a community free from sexual assault, and this vision lies at the heart of everything KCSARC does. Our vision is closer to reality when we build healthy relationships that are based on respect and consent. It’s closer when we believe and stand with survivors as they face and manage through the intense emotions their experience generates. And it’s closer when people believe that sexual assault is never a victim’s fault. Period. Full stop.

We also know that creating a community free from sexual assault needs all the components of a healthy and welcoming city. We must ensure sexual violence prevention programming remains in our schools.

We can make sure physical and mental healthcare is accessible for all children and families, and that basic needs are met for every child and family.

Renton is our home and home to over 100,000 people. We remain committed to creating a community free from sexual assault and look forward to continuing our work in this community to make that happen.

Mary Ellen Stone is the executive director of the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center. Information about KCSARC’s services and programming can be found at www.kcsarc.org.

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