All sexual interaction and relationships should be consensual, respectful and informed. The month of April is designated Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the United States with the goal of raising “public awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence” according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
The SAAM campaign believes beginning an honest conversation about what sexual violence is will build safe and healthy relationships. Talking about it can help prevent it.
Anyone can experience sexual violence but most that do are women. Nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the United States have been raped at some time in their lives according to the Center For Disease Control. An estimated 20 percent to 25 percent of college women in the United States have experienced an attempted or complete rape during their college career.
Who commits these crimes? It could be a “current or former intimate partner, a family member, a person in position of power or trust, a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger,” according to the Center for Disease Control.
Sexual Violence refers to sexual activity where consent is not obtained or freely given, according to the CDC. Sexual violence can include threats, harassment and peeping. The numbers may account for all cases of sexual violence, as many cases go undocumented because “victims are afraid to tell the police, friends, or family about the abuse” out of fear of not being believed or there is nothing the police will do. Those who have experienced a sexual assault may be ashamed, or they may have been threatened with further harm if they tell anyone. Often those who have been sexually assaulted know their assailant.
“Nearly two-thirds of women who reported being raped, physically assaulted, or stalked since age 18 were victimized by a current or former husband, cohabiting partner, boyfriend, or date,” according to the CDC.
What is consent?
“Consent is the presence of a ‘yes’ when ‘no’ is a viable option,” said Rebecca Swearingen Assistant Executive Director for Saving Grace, a local non profit that provides support for victims of family violence and sexual assault.
So “no” is not a viable option when someone fears for their safety by refusing sexual contact. Saying “yes” because you are afraid does not mean consent. Sexual assault is never the fault of the victim even if the perpetrator is never prosecuted.
Community Resources Saving Grace Hotline:
866 504-8992 (toll free)
Campus Public Safety:
COCC provides professional counseling services to students. Appointments can be made by calling 541 383-7200.
Your local police department can also be contacted.
What do I do if I have been the victim of a sexual assault?
Tell someone as soon as possible.
A. The police. Fifty-four percent of sexual assaults are not reported to police according to Rape Abuse and Incest National Network.
“It is very, very important that victims garner the courage to report sexual assault crime as soon as possible after occurrence,” said Redmond Police Chief Dave Tarbet . “The police are not looking to make judgment of a victim; only to find the truth and see the perpetrator is held accountable for the crime.”
B. The emergency room at St. Charles in Bend, Redmond or Madras.
The emergency rooms use Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners who receive specialized training to help victims of sexual assault. There is no cost for the exam. An advocate can go to the hospital with you.
C. A friend who can offer support when going to police or emergency room
D. College Mental Health services through the Career Services Academic Advisory, Personal Counseling Center.
Counselors on staff “have experience in dealing with clients who have experienced sexual assault as well as PTSD,” according to Vickery Viles of the COCC CAP Center.
E. Saving Grace’s emergency hotline available 24 hours a day. Advocates are willing to accompany you to the police, the ER, and help you talk through all your options.
What if people don’t believe me?
The assault and its affect on you matter. Nothing should come in the way of obtaining appropriate services to help you. Tell what happened to you and get the support you need. By telling someone, you may prevent the perpetrator from hurting another person. Find support and work toward healing. If the first person doesn’t believe you, find someone who does. Don’t give up.
What will my family say? Will my church support me? Will my friends be supportive?
No matter what community a victim is from, it is important to offer support and provide them with the resources to survive, cope and thrive after an assault.
If I go to the police will I get in trouble? Can I be deported if I’m undocumented?
Reports of sexual assault are taken seriously by the police department and you will never get in trouble for an honest report. Deportation procedures are not brought against people who report crimes.
“Sometimes, illegal immigrants are victims of sexual assault and do not report incidents to police for fear of deportation,” said Redmond Police Chief Dave Tarbet . “Redmond police officers are not interested in a victim’s immigration status at any time when they are a victim of a violent crime.”
Spanish speaking officers or interpreters are available to interview the victims if there is a language barrier. In some cases an undocumented person may apply for a specific type of Visa as a result of a sexual assault or domestic violence. Saving Grace and local immigration attorneys are the right people to contact for more information.
Information contributed by Helen Eastwood. Eastwood is a COCC student who wants students to know the campus and community resources in the event of a sexual assault.
Sexual assault and violence are widespread in the United States, according to a recent National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence survey. The findings in the report underscore the toll of this violence, the impacts of victimization and the lifelong health consequences.