Volume 3, Number 3 - April 17, 2003
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Sexual Assault Awareness
On April 7, Governor Freudenthal signed a proclamation declaring April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Sublette County Sexual Assault and Family Violence (SAFV) Task Force hopes to bring awareness to what sexual assault is and how it affects the victims of this horrendous crime.
According to an article by Elizabeth Cheroutes of the Community Safety Network: "A wealthy businessman, known for giving generously to charities, is walking home after working late, and is robbed of all of his money. The assailant claims the businessman was 'asking for it' by being so vulnerable. He denies any wrongdoing and the case goes to trial. On the witness stand the defense attorney questions the businessman about why he was alone at night, why he was wearing an expensive suit, and how much money he has given away in the past to prove that he was not being robbed, but simply making a charitable donation. An outrageous and unjust scenario. Yes. But substitute the wealthy businessman with a woman, and substitute the robber with a rapist and the situation is much different. Do we blame rape victims for being alone at night, wearing suggestive clothing, and for having prior sexual relationships? Certainly. In fact, it is legal in the state of Wyoming to request that the judge allow a victim's past sexual history into the proceedings in order to convince juries that the sex was consensual and now she's lying about it. She's the one left feeling robbed."
We must put the responsibility where it belongs, on the perpetrator. A possibley poor choice by the victim is never an excuse for the crime. A person who forces or coerces a sexual act on someone else must always be held accountable for their actions.
"Girls are trained to live in a combat zone, they are told to never go to a bar alone, watch what they drink, walk in groups, and that short skirts can get then into trouble. In fact, women are safer in back alleys than they are at home. Over 75 percent of sexual-assault victims know their perpetrator as a boy friend, acquaintance, husband, family member or friend of the family," Cheroutes wrote.
For years, young girls have been taught to watch out for strangers. Who would have ever thought that they needed to protect themselves from people who supposedly cared for them?
Cheroutes wrote: "According to an American Medical Association survey of 11-14-year-old boys and girls, 51 percent of the boys and 41 percent of the girls believed that sexual assault was acceptable if the boy 'spent a lot of money' on the girl. In another AMA survey of male college students, 35 percent anonymously admitted that they would commit rape if they believed they could get away with it. When sexual assault is not perceived as a serious crime, with serious consequences for the victims," it's no wonder an estimated two thirds of rapes go unreported.
The world is acknowledging that oppression is wrong. No one person, regardless of sex, race or religion, is better than any other. No one person has the right to oppress another because they feel they are superior, stronger or entitled. What is not recognized is that the attitude of sexism and the oppression attached to it is the root of the sexual-assault mentality.
We must never forget the victim. Sexual assault is a trauma. Regardless of what resources we use, men and women, boys and girls who have been sexually assaulted need our support. They need a loving environment that does not pass judgment or place blame.
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