Changing views on sexual assault
February 5, 2008
SUMMIT COUNTY According to the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault, 1 in 4 Colorado women have experienced a completed or attempted sexual assault in their lifetime. This staggering statistic shows that sexual assault is prevalent almost everywhere in Colorado and the perceptions surrounding what constitutes as sexual assault needs to be addressed. There is this myth that real rape is a stranger jumping out the bushes with a ski mask and a gun, but that is completely false, said Sarah Vaine, the Executive Director of Advocates for Victims of Assault. Over 80 percent of sexual assaults are committed by an acquaintance of the victim, leaving many victims feeling confused as to whether what they experienced constitutes as sexual assault. There is a very big difference between regretted sex and unconsented sex, said Vaine. When victims know their attacker it makes them doubt their own perceptions of what happened.Drugs and alcohol also play a very large role in the myth surrounding sexual assault, and often times a victim will feel shame and guilt if they were not completely coherent at the time of the attack.All of the women that contact us for support always feel guilty or responsible for some piece of attack, thinking that they may have brought it upon themselves, said Vaine. Its our job at Advocates to let women know that it is not their fault and that no one deserves to be violated.Doubted perceptionsWomen involved with non-stranger sexual assaults are often treated differently in the eyes of others and can feel added guilt if they chose to come forward about their attack. If a victim is not believed then she can feel significant added blame for the incident, said Vaine. Media hype around many high profile rape cases in the past also discourage other woman from coming forward because they see how easily victims get doubted.The Kobe Bryant rape trial in 2003 is just one example of a victim who received public backlash after coming forward. In the summer of 2003 a 19-year-old employee at a hotel in Eagle, Colorado, accused the NBA superstar of raping her in his hotel room after she repeated told him no.Swirling media attention surrounding the case attacked the victims credibility and placed intense scrutiny on her personal life. The victim later withdrew her support from the criminal prosecution and told prosecutors she was unwilling to testify in the case.Statistics on the rise According to Vaine, Advocates has reported an increased number of sexual assault calls in the past month.We had ten sexual assault calls in the past month, said Vaine. In the past we used to get a total of ten calls in a year.As the population in Summit County fluctuates with the changing seasons so do the number of calls into Advocates.This is a resort community with a lot of twenty-somethings so spring break is definitely a time when more sexual assault are occurring, said Vaine. One of the main problems facing sexual assault prevention is the fact that many sexual assaults go unreported. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, more than 59 percent of all sexual assaults go unreported, making it extremely difficult to apprehend attackers and prevent against future sexual assaults. What Advocates offersAdvocates for Victims of Assault, Inc. was founded in 1979 and aims to provide safety, support and education to those individuals dealing with the traumatic repercussions of assault. Victims of sexual assault have several options at Advocates, and no one is ever forced into revealing more information than makes them comfortable. There are four options that victims can pursue at Advocates. The first is a thorough evidence collection, done by a doctor or a nurse to gather any pertinent evidence left on the victim from the attacker. Second, victims can give an informational report, giving any added information about the incident to prevent against future attacks. The third option for victims is to begin an investigation and press charges against their attacker, thus involving law enforcement. Lastly, victims have the option to just receive support. Everything at Advocates is confidential and those who do chose to get counseling have the option to pursue other forms of action down the road.
Advocates 24 Hour Crisis Line (970)668-3906