Chicago rape survivor urges victims to speak out

December 15, 2011 6:06:00 AM PST
One out of three women surveyed by the federal government says they have been the victim of a rape, beating, stalking or combination of assaults.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted the survey. Researchers behind the report say the numbers prove how prevalent crime against women has become. It's so prevalent that 24 people per minute are victims of rape, violence, or stalking by an intimate partner.

ABC7 talked to a 25-year-old Chicago woman who is a rape survivor. "This doesn't define me but it is a part of me," she told ABC7.

"Emma" was raped in April by a male acquaintance -- and she has a message for other survivors.

"Build a support for yourself. Don't be afraid to tell your story. There's a stigma, absolutely, but the more we talk about it, the more awareness there will be," she said.

The CDC's study concluded that nearly one in five women has been raped, one in four has been a victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner, and one in six has been stalked.

"I hope this study becomes a call to action for all of us to take our responsibility," said Sharmili Majmudar, executive director, Rape Victim Advocates, a non-profit rape crisis center in Chicago.

Majmudar says the report should make all citizens take a hard look at what they do. Also on Wednesday, she noted, a University of Vermont fraternity is now under suspension after a questionnaire asked, if I could rape someone, who would it be? Everyone, Majmudar says, must face these issues, and not look away.

"The upside of all of this is it's very clear that each of us can actually do something about this. Given how many people are affected, we really can all make a difference," said Majmudar.

The Rape Victim Advocates and the YWCA make it clear that they have plenty of information and programs to help.

"We need to support and believe victims and hold perpetrators, rapists accountable for their actions," said Yesenia Romo, YWCA, Director of Sexual Violence & Support Services.

Emma adds that victims must learn how to live with it and help others.

"I didn't want this assault to be something that defined me or made me afraid forever, and I haven't let it," she said.

Emma says couples must ask if they can take a relationship to the next level physically and emotionally.

If anyone needs help or has questions, they can call the Chicago Rape Crisis Hotline at 888-293-2080.

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