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TOO often, insensitive comments are made about a rape survivor’s experience. Somebody might question whether the attack happened, or ridicule or otherwise bully the victim.

Such was the case of Rehtaeh Parsons of Nova Scotia
; Audrie Pott of Saratoga, Calif., and the 16-year-old Steubenville, Ohio, girl. All were met with skepticism and bullying after reporting their rapes. Parsons and Pott, 17 and 15 respectively, were blamed for their attacks by classmates and friends, whom they should have been able to trust. Both hanged themselves after photos of the assaults went viral among their classmates.

These tragedies have renewed urgency surrounding sexual-assault prevention and treatment of survivors, on and off campuses.

Victim blaming dehumanizes the victim, callously disregarding his or her dignity.

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“[It] could be asking someone, ‘Why didn’t you fight back?’ ” said Robin Sacks, director of the Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Activists at University of Washington.

In Seattle, 121 rapes were reported in 2012, according to a Seattle Police Department report. In 2011, 4 percent of 1,065 men and women surveyed reported experiencing unwanted sex since beginning their studies at UW, reported the Sexual Assault & Relationship Violence Information Service, also known as SARIS.

However, many incidents still go unreported.

Although reporting the crime can be painful, victims need to know they have options. These include reporting the crime to the police, creating safety plans, obtaining a protection order or going to counseling.

Friends and families of sexual assault victims have an important role to play in supporting survivors. The attitudes and words of survivors’ supporters are critical to the healing process.

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