Sexual assault is more prevalent in our society than most would ever imagine. Did you know that:
- Every 2.5 seconds, someone is raped?
- One in six boys and one in three girls will be sexually abused by the time they are 18?
- 62 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the police?
Here in Peoria, 15 new people contact the Center For Prevention Of Abuse every day for help. Last year, the Center served nearly 500 adult and child survivors of sexual violence.
These statistics are significant, but sexual violence is not about numbers. It is a personal, painful trauma that has profound and long-lasting physical, social and psychological consequences. Sexual assault, above all other crimes, is one for which society often places blame on the victim. Most people buy into long-standing myths about this type of violence. For example:
Myth: Women who are sexually assaulted “ask for it” by the way they dress or act.
Fact: The idea that women “ask for it” is often used by offenders to rationalize their behavior. It also blames the victim for the crime, not the offender. No woman ever “asks” or deserves to be sexually assaulted. Whatever a woman wears, wherever she goes, whomever she talks to, no means no. It’s the law.
Myth: Sexual assault is most often committed by strangers.
Fact: Women face the greatest risk of sexual assault from men they know, not strangers. 85 percent of victims know their assailant. Assailants range from dates, boyfriends, marital partners, friends, family members, co-workers and neighbors.
Myth: When a woman says no, she really means yes.
Fact: Consent is a free and clearly stated “yes.” Silence, intoxication, being drugged or unable to speak because she passes out or is unconscious is not consent.
Myths also play a huge part in shifting attention away from those who commit the crime of rape, quickly placing blame and wrongfully passing judgment on the victim. As informed community members, we can support victims of sexual violence by holding offenders accountable for their actions and by being proactive in our community.
So how can you help?
- Hold perpetrators accountable. Whether you sit on a formal jury or simply as a member of the court of public opinion, you hold the key in your hand that can convict a perpetrator who exerts control over another.
- Support prevention education. Ask your local schools and universities to address the issues of sexual violence in their classrooms through prevention education programs offered by The Center for Prevention of Abuse.
- Get involved with local community safety efforts. Contact your Neighborhood Watch association and the Sexual Assault Services Department at The Center for Prevention of Abuse for information on how to keep yourself, your family and your community safe.
- Talk to your doctor. Encourage your primary care physician to screen women for signs of physical and sexual violence and ask if they are in violent or abusive relationships during regular checkups.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. It is a time to educate, dispel myths and honor the victims and survivors of sexual assault. The Center for Prevention of Abuse has planned a series of community gatherings, educational opportunities and awareness displays throughout central Illinois. For a list of activities and information on how to get involved, visit centerforpreventionofabuse.org or call 691-0551.
Only when we become clear on the facts of rape will we rid our society of sexual abuse. Ending sexual abuse requires awareness, education, replacing myths with facts and remembering that it is always a crime…one community, one home and one life at a time. TPW