Amy Jackson: Sexual assault: It’s a problem here and everywhere
Advocates for Victims of Assault
As spring break is upon us and with the approach of April as National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Advocates for Victims of Assault, Inc., is focusing on educating the community about sexual assault.
The statistics are startling: According to a report funded by the Department of Justice, roughly one in five women have been or will become the victim of a rape or an attempted rape in her lifetime. Nationally, 17.7 million American women have been victims of attempted or completed rape. Statistics tell us that girls ages 16-19 are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape or sexual assault and that 93 percent of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker.
Every community is affected by sexual violence. Here in Summit County, Advocates for Victims of Assault, Inc., provides advocacy, crisis intervention, support groups and counseling to victims and survivors of sexual violence. Our community-based organization also offers prevention education programs and community outreach initiatives designed to increase public awareness and safety. Last year alone, Advocates provided services to 32 survivors of sexual assault. Sexual assault is the most under-reported crime in America; therefore, we know that there were many more victims that never sought help or involved law enforcement.
We are currently working with our local Violence Prevention Team to design a bar/drink safety campaign to highlight the risks of drug-facilitated sexual assaults and to provide information about what one should do if they have been a victim of a sexual assault. The Violence Prevention Team consists of law enforcement, district attorneys, advocates, probation, et. al., and is dedicated to ensuring that victims are treated with dignity and respect and that offenders are held accountable. We all know someone who has been a victim of a sexual assault, and we all have a role and a responsibility in preventing sexual violence. Parents and educators must teach students to respect boundaries and to ask for consent. Everyone must learn that they have the power and responsibility to safely intervene when they see or hear of injustice. By working together, we can highlight sexual violence as a major public health issue and reinforce the need for prevention efforts.
If you will be frequenting the bars this spring break or expect to be in situations where alcohol or drugs may be present, here in Summit or elsewhere, please watch your drink, go out with friends and create a buddy system where you are responsible for another’s safety. Understand that sexual assault does not need to involve threats or force. If someone is too intoxicated or inhibited to consent to sexual activity, legally, a sexual assault can occur.
Most importantly, we want people to know that there is confidential help available and that even if someone made the choice to use alcohol or drugs, a sexual assault is never their fault. If you, or someone you know, has been a victim of a sexual assault and you would like support or to know what your reporting options are, please contact the Advocates at (970) 668-3906. Have a happy and safe spring break!
Amy Jackson is executive director of Advocates for Victims of Assault, Inc., in Summit County.
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