Dispelling myths about sexual assault in Summit County (letter)
There are many myths surrounding the issue of sexual assault, all of which assist in keeping this issue hidden and displace the responsibility for the assault from the perpetrator to the victim. With April being Sexual Assault Awareness month, ask yourself if you believe the following:
➢ Sexual assault does not happen in Summit County.
There were 37 reported sexual assaults in Summit County in 2014. National statistics show that approximately 67 percent of sexual assaults are never reported, suggesting that the number of sexual assaults that occurred last year is much higher.
➢ Sexual assault only impacts the poor and minority populations.
Sexual assault is widespread and not isolated to certain groups of people. It is prevalent across race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status and sexual orientation. Anyone can be a perpetrator or a victim of this crime.
➢ Only females are victims of sexual assault.
Although women are statistically most often victims of sexual assault, men are also victims. Nearly 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men experience sexual violence victimization, excluding rape, at some point in life. The statistics for transgender individuals are also staggering, with 64 percent of this population experiencing sexual violence in their lifetimes. These are national statistics, but Summit County is not immune from the issue of sexual assault.
➢ People who are victims of sexual assault are at fault or responsible for what happened to them.
Sexual assault is never the fault of the victim. Sexual assault and rape are crimes of violence and result from the perpetrator’s need to exert power. No situation exists where unwanted sexual activity is acceptable. This remains true if a person decides to become intoxicated, or flirts or changes their mind during an interaction with another person.
➢ Date rape drugs are not used in Summit County.
Alcohol is the primary date rape drug. The ease of access and societal acceptance of alcohol leads many to not consider it a date rape drug. But, alcohol’s effects — sedation, loss of consciousness and inhibited decision-making ability — demonstrate that it functions like any other date rape drug. Other date rape drugs, like rohypnol, may also be used in our community, but it is challenging to track due to the many varieties and how quickly they pass through the body.
➢ If someone is silent or doesn’t say no, it means they are giving consent.
Consent is a person saying “yes”; it is not the absence of saying no. Consent should not be assumed, should be confirmed at every level of sexual activity and every time sexual activity occurs. If consent is not given, any sexual contact must stop immediately.
➢ You must talk to the police if you have been sexually assaulted.
You have options if you have been a victim of sexual assault. You may seek medical treatment or you may go to the police, but nothing is required. If you want to discuss your options or get help, please call Advocates for Victims of Assault at (970) 668-3906. We are entirely confidential. You are not alone.
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