Journalist and Activist on How to Be There for Survivors

Each month, RAINN features a member of its National Leadership Council (NLC). The NLC is a group of dedicated individuals who have shown their commitment to RAINN’s mission of supporting survivors and ending sexual violence. This month we checked in with journalist, editor, entrepreneur, activist, Jacqui Cheng.

Why are you passionate about ending sexual violence?

Sexual violence is a control tactic meant to threaten and manipulate people—it goes so far beyond the trauma of the moment. By confronting and working to end sexual violence in its many forms, we are doing the hard work of chipping away at the patriarchal systems that traumatize, and ultimately limit the freedom and life force of all whose lives it affects, predominently women and children.

How can we all be better supporters and advocates for survivors in our lives?

Photo credit: Earl Wilson for the New York Times

I think the common advice is to “believe survivors.” I certainly agree with that, but I think real impact goes beyond merely believing. If there’s someone in your life who’s been exposed to sexual or domestic violence, and you’re able, nothing is more appreciated than a real helping hand in a crisis. A couch to sleep on, an extra cell phone, a patient ear, a ride to the ER, a hand held during the exam. My experience shows that, in the moment, people scatter and there’s a shocking lack of support when a victim needs it the most—the sudden silence of friends and family can be just as traumatizing than the violence itself. Even a small helping hand in the moment of crisis is more valuable than almost anything else. Second most important is providing ongoing support, which can go on for years, if not decades.

What is your message to survivors?

When it feels like you’ll never be able to come back from this horrifying thing, when it feels like you’re all alone and no one is there to believe or support you—know that *I* believe you, and *I* support you, and there are people out there who you don’t even know who are willing to get angry on your behalf. You are NEVER ALONE.

Why did you want to be a part of RAINN’s National Leadership Council?

The work RAINN does is incredibly important to survivors and their entire support networks. Living through sexual violence of any kind can leave you feeling overwhelmed and confused, and resources for information and help can be surprisingly hard to pull together in a pinch. I’m eager to lend my ear and ideas to RAINN leadership in order to continue to provide this rare, necessary, and useful support to more and more people in need.

How has your passion for ending sexual violence influenced your art, advocacy, work, etc.?

As a journalist on technology and culture, I began to give a series of talks 10 years ago based around digital stalking and the ways in which intimate partner violence was facilitated by the explosion of smartphones. Those conference talks became standing-room-only, and I started getting long lines of people waiting to ask me questions afterwards. It made me realize the problem was only just in its infancy and people were only just beginning to wake up to the idea that those who are prone to violence may use modern methods to threaten or harm, and that our laws meant to protect survivors are not yet prepared to deal with those tactics. I’m preparing to come back to this topic soon and pick up where I left off in order to help those escaping domestic and sexual violence, in addition to those dealing with the smartphone-induced modern issue of revenge porn, the nonconsensual sharing of intimate photographs or videos.

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