Reflections on Sexual Assault Awareness Month

22Apr09

On April 8, President Obama declared April to be National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. As the month comes to a close, I think it is important to reflect on the issue of sexual assault and its effect on millions of lives in this country.

In an official Presidential proclamation, President Obama mentions a study finding 18 percent of women in this country have been sexually assaulted in their lifetime. In addition, he cites a study of college women which found that 13.7 percent of undergraduate women had been victims of at least one completed sexual assault since entering college.

You may be wondering, what exactly is sexual assault? Sexual assault is often referred to as an “umbrella” term, which encompasses various unwanted acts. According to women’s health.gov, sexual assault is any sexual activity that one does not agree to. This can include:power_and_control1

  • inappropriate touching
  • vaginal, anal, or oral penetration
  • sexual intercourse that you say no to
  • rape
  • attempted rape
  • child molestation

If you are a victim of sexual assault, the first thing you must do is get yourself to safety. Immediately dial 911 or your local police for assistance. It is important to get in contact with someone you trust and tell them what happened.

If you are raped, it is important not to wash or clean any part of your body, do not even brush your hair or change your clothes. It is important to get to an emergency room right away so your injuries can be treated and a rape kit can be done to collect evidence. It is a personal decision whether or not to press charges against your perpetrator, if possible. However, if you chose to press charges down the line it will be very difficult, if not impossible, without evidence collected immediately after a rape.

Treating your physical injuries is important, but it is also crucial to emotionally heal from the damage caused by rape and sexual assault. An important thing for a victim to know is that it is not your fault, and you did not deserve to be sexually assaulted. Despite what some may say, no woman “asks for it,” regardless of what she is wearing, how much alcohol she drinks, or how flirtatious her behavior may be. No means no. Rape and sexual assault can take a great emotional toll on victims, and the negative connotations associated with victims are wrong.

If you or someone you know has been a victim or rape or sexual assault and need help or counseling, there are a number of resources available.

At The College at Brockport, University Police can be contacted in the instance of a sexual assault at (585) 395-2222. The Counseling Center has a counselor who specializes in rape and sexual assault, and you can contact the center at (585) 395-2207.

In the Rochester, NY area, the Rape Crisis Service of Planned Parenthood of the Rochester/Syracuse Region can be reached at (585) 546-2777.

Nationally you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

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