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How To Help Victims Of Sexual Assault

How can you support victims of sexual assault when they need it most? This particular issue has become a major topic of conversation, due to the rocky start (to put it lightly) of this season's Bachelor in Paradise.

On June 11, Warner Brothers issued a statement that they were halting production of Bachelor in Paradise due to "allegations of misconduct." According to a report from Entertainment Tonight, a source claimed the alleged "misconduct" involved Corinne Olympios engaging in nonconsenual sexual acts with DeMario Jackson in a pool.

Since the news broke, the issue of the ability for either party to consent has been highly debated by other cast members and fans of the franchise alike, as ET's source also claimed both Corinne and DeMario were "very drunk."

Many people have even chosen not to support Corinne, and have even blamed her for whatever allegedly occurred.

However, Warner Brothers has since closed their investigation of any alleged misconduct during filming, issuing the following statement on Tuesday, June 20:

As we previously stated, we recently became aware of allegations regarding an incident on the set of Bachelor in Paradise in Mexico. We take all such allegations seriously. The safety, security and well-being of the cast and crew is our number one concern, and we suspended filming so that the allegations could be investigated immediately and thoroughly. Our internal investigation, conducted with the assistance of an outside law firm, has now been completed. Out of respect for the privacy interests of those involved, we do not intend to release the videotape of the incident. We can say, however, that the tape does not support any charge of misconduct by a cast member. Nor does the tape show, contrary to many press reports, that the safety of any cast member was ever in jeopardy. Production on this season of Bachelor in Paradise will be resuming, and we plan to implement certain changes to the show's policies and procedures to enhance and further ensure the safety and security of all participants.

Both Corinne and DeMario released their own individual statements as well.

On Wednesday, June 14, Corinne released a formal statement to TMZ, prior to Warner Brother's latest announcement about the investigation closing:

I am a victim and have spent the last week trying to make sense of what happened on June 4. Although I have little memory of that night, something bad obviously took place, which I understand is why production on the show has now been suspended and a producer on the show has filed a complaint against the production. As a woman, this is my worst nightmare and it has now become my reality. As I pursue the details and facts surrounding that night and the immediate days after, I have retained a group of professionals to ensure that what happened on June 4 comes to light and I can continue my life, including hiring an attorney to obtain justice and seeking therapy to begin dealing with the physical and emotional trauma stemming from that evening.

Also on June 14, DeMario released the following statement to E! Online:

It's unfortunate that my character and family name has been assassinated this past week with false claims and malicious allegations. I will be taking swift and appropriate legal action until my name is cleared and, per the advice of legal counsel, will be seeking all available remedies entitled to me under the laws.

While we don't know what really happened during filming for Bachelor in Paradise, the allegations have certainly reignited the conversation surrounding consent and rape culture.

In a society where we have not clearly defined or don't seem to fully understand the idea of both sexual assault and consent, it's important that we do know how to support someone who has been sexually assaulted —regardless of what we might think about them.

Sexual violence can have long-term emotional and physical repercussions. In fact, 13 percent of female rape victims attempt suicide, according to RAINN. So, I reached out to psychotherapist Golie Zarabi and sex therapist Stefani Threadgill to find out how we can best support victims when they need it the most.

Educate yourself on the facts surrounding sexual assault.

Threadgill says, "Sexual assault is sexualized violence, not a sexual experience. Alcohol is the number one date rape drug. Consent under the influence is not consent."

And the hard statistics regarding sexual assault in the U.S. are staggering.

According to RAINN, "1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime."

Even more? Every 98 seconds, someone is sexually assaulted, and 90 percent of adult rape victims are female.

RAINN also reports that 994 out of 1,000 perpetrators will walk free.

Think before you react.

Whatever you do, don't make this about you.

"Reactions to avoid include overprotectiveness, judgment, blame, and unwillingness to talk about it or their feelings about the sexual assault," Threadgill explains. You should add comfort to the situation, not drama.

She continues, "Some partners avoid intimacy or initiate immediate intimacy, thinking sex will lessen the trauma. Do encourage them to make their own decisions and regain a feeling of control over their life."

Acknowledge the victim's courage.

Daring Wanderer

"It is vital to understand and recognize the courage it takes for a person who has been sexually assaulted to speak up and bring attention to what has happened to them," Zarabi says.

Sexual assault and rape are not just isolated sexual, violent acts. They also have long-term emotional repercussions.

Zarabi explains why survivors need an incredible amount of support:

Sexual assault is the most unreported crime. Often those who have been sexually abused do not speak up or reach for support, legal or otherwise, for fear that they will not be believed by their friends, family and their community. In addition, those who have been sexually assaulted feel a great deal of shame for what has happened to them. Reaching for support or pressing charges for this crime means having to relive the  trauma and be continuously triggered by the memories and details of this trauma.

The solution? "Knowing how traumatizing the aftermath of sexual assault is, we must whole heartedly believe, support and defend those who have been assaulted," she says.

Encourage the victim to seek therapy, but realize that this isn't a one-size-fits-all solution.

Therapy can always be beneficial after a traumatic event.

Zarabi says, "Encourage her or him to seek professional help by a psychotherapist. Therapy is a safe space where she or he can process their emotions, memories, narratives with the help of a trained professional."

But remember that therapy isn't always the perfect "solution" and it doesn't mean that someone will be fixed. Living in the aftermath of such a trauma is a life-long process for many people.

Be respectful of their healing process.

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Don't rush the victim with their own individual process of healing.

"Each individual processes trauma, experiences, emotions, thoughts, in their own way, and at their own pace. They may want to talk about it the next day, they may not talk about it with you for years," Zarabi explains. "In addition, reactions to sexual assault also vary. It is important to respect their process without judgement."

Don't be silent about this issue.

RAINN on YouTube

"There are many misconceptions about sexual assault, leaving an individual who has been assaulted feeling very alone and often confused. If you hear or see wrong or misguided information about sexual assault, it is beneficial to point it out, and spread your beliefs, research, and knowledge," Zarabi suggests.

According to Zarabi, you shouldn't be afraid to speak up and educate. She summarizes, "The more educated the community about this crime and trauma, the safer one would feel to discuss it and come forward."