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RAINN Hosts its First Facebook Q & A with Founder, Scott Berkowitz

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(December 20, 2013) -- In his first Facebook Q&A, RAINN president and founder Scott Berkowitz took live questions from supporters on topics ranging from the criminal justice system to the importance of educating high school students. RAINN is among the very first nonprofits to use this Facebook feature, initially launched for celebrities earlier this year. Earlier this month, RAINN was selected as one of 19 charities to partner with Facebook on a new donation system.

In case you missed Scott’s live Q&A, below are the highlights — or you can read the Q&A in its entirety on RAINN's Facebook page.

What made you start this wonderful organization that has done so much to help to many?
Like everyone, I had some friends in college who had been assaulted. But to be honest, I had a whole lot to learn when I started. It was through conversations with thousands of survivors and volunteers and others over the years that I really got a better understanding of the issue. Nineteen years later, we've accomplished a lot, but there's still lots more to do.

How can we put more responsibility on perpetrators, instead of blaming victims?
We need to make sure our messages don't suggest that victims are to blame. Probably the best approach is to make sure that everyone knows they are part of the solution, that they can help watch out for friends, and that they won't tolerate certain behavior.

Why do you believe, even today with the known data right at our fingertips, the prevailing myth of high false accusations controls the narrative on sexual violence?
That frustrates me, too. We work with reporters every day to educate them that the vast majority of allegations are true. One thing that seems to help is to point out all the reasons someone would be unlikely to make a false report. The whole process, between police interviews and forensic exams and so on, takes many hours and is incredibly taxing. Not many people are going to put themselves through all that unless they are truly victims of an assault. We'll keep reaching out to media (and please send them our way)

How can we help survivors from a legal perspective so they can regain control?
You're right— when people are brave enough to come forward, we need to support them. One exciting thing in the field is that many police departments are now training their cops about how people typically react to a trauma like sexual assault. The more they understand that, the more they will believe victims who come forward. Of course, we need to teach juries the same lessons.

What advice do you have for recent college graduates looking to pursue studies/a career in sexual violence prevention (in the social/education field, rather than the legal/health field)?
One great place to start is volunteering for your local sexual assault service provider (you can find your local one here: http://volopps.rainn.org). As far as background, we really need help from lots of types of people. A social work background is great for working with survivors. A few examples: A legal background is great for helping with public policy. And a marketing background is great for prevention work.

How can we get more men involved in fighting sexual violence?
Good question. I've never thought of this as a women's issue. It's really a crime issue. Like every crime issue, it's going to take the whole community to solve. It happens to women, mostly, but also many men and small children. We need to make sure people know how they can help. The more we can show people the impact they can have, the more we can attract help across the board.

How can we educate high school students about sexual violence?
Community education is key. I'd take it a step further: we need to start in preschool and have the messages evolve each year as kids get older. High school is the beginning of the highest risk, so we do need to concentrate there. We hope to be able to expand our RAINN Day college program to high schools in the future.

I know your offices are in Washington DC, what is your favorite restaurant and/or place to visit?
Rasika is probably my favorite. Great Indian food.


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