Silence surrounding sexual violence continues to decline, while support and awareness continues to grow, improving justice for survivors. Dedicated to supporting survivors, Rochester honors Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) and offers several resources through Olmsted County Victim Services.
Licensed Psychologist Gina Dilly, who ran a private practice in Rochester, specializes in working with women who have experienced trauma including sexual assault. Since the #metoo movement went viral in October of 2017, Dilly states, “I am seeing more brave women coming forward since then, being able to talk about their story. Silence is deafening. Silence creates trauma.”
Years ago, sexual violence was not discussed openly nearly as much today, often leading victims to sit with their trauma for years. “A lot of younger folks are willing to talk about it quicker and even get into more advocacy roles. So they are brave, they are strong, but they also haven’t lived with the trauma for 30 years. It has helped and enabled them to move forward,” Dilly explains.
Justice for survivors of sexual violence has recently emerged as a major point of discussion in light of Minnesota’s Supreme Court ruling earlier this year. The felony rape conviction Francios Momolu Khalil was charged with from a sexual assault in 2017 was overturned because the victim was voluntarily intoxicated. On this topic Dilly notes, “Here we are in 2021 and we’re still fighting.” There is not enough focus on prevention and on perpetrators, but rather victim blaming and shaming. She continues, “Unfortunately, we’re just not there yet. One of the leading indicators of a future sexual abuser is a violent early childhood. Those are the ingredients that make up the recipe for disaster. Those are our future perpetrators.” Lawmakers are already moving to close the loophole that overturned Khalil’s conviction.
Dilly retired in December of 2020, but says that Olmsted County Victim Services has been an essential resource. They provide survivors with an advocate and offer access to additional resources. Psychology Today (www.psychologytoday.com) is another excellent resource she recommends because it contains a directory of therapists based on the survivor’s location. Through Psychology Today, survivors can read the bios of therapists to select one that fits their needs. Additionally, COVID-19 has facilitated growing access to virtual therapy because of social distancing regulations.
“We’re one of the most resource rich counties in the state of Minnesota. The resources are there, but you have to take the initiative to reach out and get those resources and activate those resources. A part of that is Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic wanted in their region, ability to access these resources,” Dilly explains. Whether survivors report the assault or not, Rochester Victim Advocates urge survivors to get medical care, such as therapy, after being assaulted.
Rochester’s City Hall dome lights illuminated teal on April 1 to honor SAAM. The support of the City of Rochester and Mayor Kim Norton helps to create awareness, aiding in the continued growth and comfort of survivors speaking out and telling their stories.