Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Sexual Assault: Prevention, Help and Awareness

--by Alissa Griffith

At least one in six -- thats how many women The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says are sexually assaulted each year nationwide.

In 2001, The Athens Police Department reported there were 37 cases of sexual assault in Athens County. However, Lindsey Daniels, the program coordinator of the Sexual Assault Prevention program, says because all sexual assaults are not reported, that number could have been much higher then and now

The Sexual Assault Prevention Program is an educational awareness and outreach program run through Tri-County Mental Health and Counseling in Athens, Ohio. They offer a variety of primary prevention activites targeted at students, as well as community members in Athens, Hocking and Vinton Counties. Those at the prevention center believe "[sexual assault] affects all of us."

Watch interview with Lindsey Daniels.

An Ohio University alum, Daniels says one of the keys to preventing sexual assault is through education. For S.A.P.P., that education starts young. They hold a series of workshops and begin going into schools and talking to children as young as eleven years old about dating violence and healthy relationships. They talk to high school students about the definition of masculinity and feminity and sponsor self-defense classes for high school and college students.

Victim Awareness
Part of Daniels' inspiration comes from a group called PAVE - Promoting Awareness Victims Empowerment. PAVE is a national, grassroots organization that uses education and action to shatter the silence of sexual and domestic violence.

As a result of the highly-publicized case in Nebraska that had to be dismissed because a judge barred words including "rape", "sexual assault" and "sexual assault nurse" from the a college student's sexual assault trial, PAVE mobilized women across the country to hold a rally in defense of victims' rights. In Athens, Tuesday, men and women gathered holding signs and displaying t-shirts to show their support of sexual assault victims and to encourage others to protect these victims' rights.

Watch a supporter at the rally talk about his reason for being there.

Not as rare as you may think
*1 in 4 female college students surveyed is a victim of rape or attempted rape.
*1 out of 6 female college students reported having been the victim of rape or attempted rape during the preceding year.
*1 in 15 male college students reported committing a rape or attempting to commit a rape during the preceding year.
*Only 27% of the women whose sexual assaults met the legal definition of rape thought of themselves as rape victims.
*85% of rapes on campus are committed by acquaintances.
*42% of college women who are raped tell NO ONE about their assault.
*Approximately 5% of college women who are raped report the rape to law enforcement.
*Approximately 5% of college women who are raped seek help at a rape crisis center.
*42% of the women who were raped said they had sex again with the men who assaulted them.

In this study, alcohol was a factor in 100% of reported gang rapes

What are some of the effects of sexual assault?

Physical Effects: Can include chronic pelvic pain, gastrointestinal disorders, back pain, migraines or headaches, nausea, gynecological and pregnancy complications, exposure to STDs and STIs and more.

Emotional Effects: Can include shock, fear, guilt, denial, shame, depression, flashbacks, self-blame, anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-Rape Trauma Syndrome and more.

Social Effects: Can include social isolation, avoidance of physical places or social situations where the assault took place, nervousness, withdrawal, relationship difficulties and more.

Physiological Effects: Can include sexual dysfunction, eating disorders, self-mutilation, hyper arousal, sleep disturbances, hyper vigilance and more.

Impact on Family and Friends: Can include grief, frustration, guilt, a sense of revenge, anger, confusion, denial and more.

I Know Someone
If someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, the Bulter County Rape Crisis Program recommends the four basic messages that sexual assault survivors most need to hear are:

I believe you.
The assault was not your fault.
Help is available.
You are not alone.

Sexual assault victims in Athens county, Ohio and across the country can know that they are survivors and they have support. If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted call the Sexual Assault Crisis Line at 1-888-475-8484.

That Someone is Me

Sexual assault victims should immediately report the incident and visit the nearest hospital. Oftentimes the body preserves evidence of the assault. Hospitals can also administer pregnancy and STD tests.

Sexual assault prevention and crisis centers always want to remind victims that they are just that and sexual assault is never the victim's fault. However, many also recommend proactive ways that may help prevent becoming a victim of sexual assault including be aware of surroundings, always tell someone where you are, select a well-lit place to park your car, don't jog in secluded areas, watch your drink when in public, and keep doors locked while inside home and car.

No comments: