By Trish Propson
Originally Published in the Times Villager, April 2017
“I wish I could tell my mom I was raped on the school bus.”
“I wish my mom would tell me why she lets her boyfriend have sex with me.”
“I wish I could tell my dad to stay out of my bed and to keep his pants on.”
These entries from the rekenekt graffiti wall are shocking and if I hadn’t witnessed them being written with my own eyes, I may not have believed they were real. As a sexual assault advocate and crisis response chaplain, I have worked with hundreds of women and a few dozen men who have shared their sexual assault stories with me first hand. Girls as young as six all the way across the generational spectrum to a great grandmother in her eighties have personally shared first time disclosure of their sexual assault stories with me.
I am passionate about the sexual assault issue and the people it affects. A sexual assault survivor myself, I know the traumatic impact sexual assault has on individuals, families, victims, perpetrators, and the communities in which they reside.
I am more active in the sexual assault prevention and recovery space than most.My kids would tell you no one puts a damper on a social gathering faster than me with disturbing sexual assault stories and statistics. I believe by raising awareness we can all work together to fight back against sexual assault in our community.
The sexual assault crisis is real.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness month, so named by President Obama in 2014. Statistics about sexual assault remain elusive as there is no way to accurately study, analyze and define the vast spectrum of cause, effect, and circumstances surrounding sexual assault crimes. Most statistics come from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). The latest survey was published in 2015.
Sexual assault is the cornerstone of many other societal issues including suicide, self-harm, pornography, prostitution, human trafficking, addictions, domestic violence, divorce, and mental illness.
Statistics remain unchanged over the past decade. One in three women and one in six men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Experts in the industry know these statistics are low and inaccurate because sexual assault continues to be the least reported crime in our country. According to the latest statistics from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, rape is the most under-reported crime with only 37% of violent sexual assaults being reported to police. Only 12% of child sexual abuse is reported to the authorities. This means that two out of every three sexual assault crimes go unreported. According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network) out of 1000 violent sexual assault crimes reported, 994 perpetrators go free with no legal consequences. Only six will be incarcerated.
Many people believe sexual assaults are imagined, embellished, or the crime was consensual. The truth is that only 2% of sexual assault claims are found to be false, making sexual assault crimes the lowest instance of false reporting in our justice system.
Together we can continue to fight back against sexual assault and break the cycle. Follow these Take Five Action Steps to raise sexual assault awareness in your community.
Get the facts. Visit RAINN.org or NSVRC.org to learn more about this important issue. Arm yourself with the truth about sexual assault including causes, long-term effects, the justice system, and victims’ rights.
Raise awareness. Share the facts with people in your circle of influence. Debunk the myths and be willing to speak out about this important issue. Your voice will be credible among the people who value and respect you. Get involved and volunteer with local sexual assault advocacy agencies.
Believe the victim. If someone you know shares a sexual assault experience, believe him or her. It takes courage to tell the truth. One person who believes their story and offers support may make a huge difference in their willingness to report. Most survivors report at the urging of a friend.
Be courageous. If you see signs of sexual assault in someone you know, or think someone (even a stranger) might be in danger, step in to prevent the crime before it starts. Brave onlookers, especially men, can deter a perpetrator from harassing or violating a victim just by acknowledging the situation and demanding him to stop. Don’t leave the victim alone until he or she is safe.
Get help. Most victims will not advocate for themselves. Assist them in getting the help they need. Call the Sexual Assault Crisis Center Hotline at 800.722.7797 for guidance as to how to best help a sexual assault victim.
Rekenekt with Trish Propson is a monthly column devoted to raising awareness between parents and teens and helping people reconnect with hope across generations. Trish Propson is a local author, speaker, and family advocate committed to reconnecting families, one conversation at a time.
For more information about rekenekt visit www.cornerstonecomm.org or email Trish at: firstname.lastname@example.org