There is a quote by advocate Zeke Thomas: “Everyone heals in their own time and in their own way. The path isn’t always a straight line, and you don’t need to go it alone.”
In this downpour of #MeToo hastags after Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and Matt Lauer (where in the world is he, anyway?), Dr. Monique Howard is making sure all sexual-assault survivors in Philadelphia have all the support they need.
In honor of Women’s History Month, OUTPour will feature its first LGBTQ ally in Howard, the executive director of WOAR (Women Organized Against Rape). Howard likes to call herself more of an accomplice with the LGBTQ community instead of an ally. She feels that allies watch, and offer sideline support, where an accomplice will stand side by side and fight with you. Before becoming the executive director of WOAR, she ran the New Jersey Women and AIDS Network, which focused on supporting women living with HIV. Howard said she wanted to be the executive director of WOAR because it gave her an extraordinary opportunity to bring the intersection of race, class, gender and sexual orientation together.
One of Howard’s accomplishments at WOAR was in 2016. There was a backlog of more than 2,000 rape kits untested in Pennsylvania, and Philadelphia accounted for a large portion of them. Howard shared with OUTPour how Philadelphia has a policy of not disposing of any rape kits, and they are all stored safely right here in the city. Howard believes it is the city’s duty to keep and maintain the safety of these kits because a survivor of sexual assault should have the option to change her mind about pressing charges.
As of today, Howard is extremely happy to report that, with help from outside donors, WOAR was able to get all the backlogged rape kits tested.
Howard was not letting OUTPour leave her presence without suggesting what can be done to help survivors of sexual assault. The first thing she wanted all of us to know: WOAR has a 24-hour hotline (215-985-3333).
Second, if you need to file a report, there is always a counselor from WOAR ready to help.
Finally, she stresses the importance of disclosure and getting into a support group, because the trauma of sexual assault has a way of coming out, and you will need to be around people who will see you, hear you and know you are fighting for your space to survive.