April 1 marks the very first day of April (obviously) but it is the beginning of an entire month of awareness. April’s awareness topics range from Autism to Organ Donation, from several types of cancer to Stress. But there is one thing that it is, which needs to be mentioned loudly. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. And it is that topic which is the focus of today’s message.
On a personal note, there are very few topics which get me so fired up that my big heart shows right through. This is one of them. I am VERY passionate about improving the conditions of women with regards to sexual education and safety. What started out as a tangent-concern (I’m a woman and of course, I’m concerned about those topics) quickly became an all consuming passionate need to improve the world around me. This is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life. I’m writing a book about it, I’m going to school for it. I have lots of ideas, and I would love to share them all. If you want to know more about this topic, or any others that I blog about, please, just ask. Educating others is the biggest blessing I could ever have.
Trigger ALERT: This post contains information on sexual assault/rape. If you find those topics to be triggers, please, know that you are not alone and that life is still beautiful-even if your skies are grey.
Before we get into the “heart” of today, we need to know what it is that this month actually means.
According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network), sexual assault is a crime of power and control. The term sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim. Some forms of sexual assault include: Penetration of the victim’s body, also known as rape, attempted rape, forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, such as oral sex or penetrating the perpetrator’s body, fondling or unwanted sexual touching
This list is only a partial list, however. According to Marshall University the list also includes:
Sexual assault includes:
- Rape—sexual intercourse against a person’s will
- Forcible sodomy—anal or oral sex against a person’s will
- Forcible object penetration—penetrating someone’s vagina or anus, or causing that person to penetrate her or himself, against that person’s will
- Marital rape
- Unwanted sexual touching
- Sexual contact with minors, whether consensual or not
- Incest (Sexual intercourse or sexual intrusion between family members.)
- Any unwanted or coerced sexual contact
Let me break it down for you: if it is physical contact that is in any way sexual (kissing, touching, feeling, etc) and you didn’t want it-it is sexual assault. ALL rape is sexual assault, but not all sexual assault is rape.
I always assumed that the word assault meant “violent”. That sexual assault basically equaled rape, or some sado-masochist stuff that you see in Law and Order: SVU. Turns out, I was wrong. It doesn’t have to be violent at all. I didn’t know the actual definition of sexual assault until I was 23 years old. And that’s exactly what’s wrong with America today. Someone grab your butt? It counts. Someone kiss you without your consent? It counts. And that’s the start of why so many people don’t report it (of course, there are other reasons).
If you don’t even know it’s sexual assault, then why would you report anything?
According to the Center for Disease Control, “1 in 5 women have experienced completed or attempted rape, and about 1 in 15 men have been made to penetrate someone in their lifetime. Most victims first experienced sexual violence before age 25.” (CDC) But the statistics do not stop there.
According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network)
· Every 107 seconds, a sexual assault happens.
· 68% of these will not be reported to authorities
· About 293,066 people are assaulted or raped EACH YEAR
Some effects shown by the victims are: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Self-Harm, Sexually Transmitted Infections/Diseases (STI/STD), Depression, Substance Abuse, Sleep Disorders and more.
Here’s what RAINN recommends you do if sexual assault happens to you.
1. Your safety is important. Are you in a safe place? If you’re not feeling safe, consider reaching out to someone you trust for support. You don’t have to go through this alone.
2. What happened was not your fault. Something happened to you that you didn’t want to happen—and that’s not OK.
3. Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673).You’ll be connected to a trained staff member from a local sexual assault service provider in your area. They will direct you to the appropriate local health facility that can care for survivors of sexual assault. Some service providers may be able to send a trained advocate to accompany you.
I’m going to just attach the link to RAINN about reporting assault, which includes some reasons people may not.
So there are the facts, and the data and the definitions. Now, we need to look at the real life faces of an issue that has made its way into our society. It’s time to make prevention personal.
Baylor Story Self-Blame Devalued, Discounted and Unprotected
Huffington Post, Kesha
These links are from people (or are about people) with real lives, real concerns. And in the effort to be fair, here are some links with resources and “help” information.
Good Therapy Victims of Crime S.T.A.R.S.
If you took the time to look at the links above, you’ll notice one strikingly concerning thing. The phrase in question is:
It’s not like I was raped…
Let me say this in the plainest English I can:
It. Does. Not. Matter.
You. Are. A. Human. Being. Worthy. Of. Respect. And. Love.
Seriously. “Just because it wasn’t rape” doesn’t make it less awful, nor does it negate the effects. Rape is awful. That is true. But NO ONE asks to be assaulted. NO ONE. And it doesn’t matter if you were at a bar and someone comes up to you and gropes you, or someone comes up to you and starts kissing you and “feeling you up”. It doesn’t matter if you knew the person or if they were a stranger.
If you didn’t want it: it’s sexual assault. And that is a crime.
If you are a victim, you are not alone.