Every 98 seconds in America, someone is sexually assaulted. Since 1993, sexual violence has fallen 63 percent but it is still a huge problem. Sexual assault is classified as any unwanted sexual advances that make someone feel scared, threatened or uncomfortable. Anyone can be a victim of sexual assault regardless of age, gender or ethnicity.
Sexual assault is not always violent. It often happens when people start out feeling comfortable, but are with a person who has a different agenda. When a person is raped, the victim may freeze up completely and be unable to fight back. Its an uncontrollable event that around 50 percent of survivors experience. The sex is not consensual when this happens.
The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) reported that 93 percent of people are at least acquaintances with the perpetrator and 55 percent of sexual assaults occurred at or near the victim’s home.
It becomes very difficult for victims to report what happened to them after an attack. Imagine being violated sexually and then having to go strip in front of another stranger while they examine your body for hair, sperm and clothing shreds among other things. Most victims cannot bring themselves to do this. From sexual assault cases that went unreported from 2005-10, victims reported feeling scared of retaliation and worrying police can’t or wouldn’t help them. Some felt it was too personal to share, others didn’t want to get someone they’re close to in trouble.
Among many misconceptions about sexual assault, the biggest one is that someone was “asking for it” by drinking, dressing or acting a certain way. Alcohol doesn’t place a devil on someone’s shoulder telling them to assault someone. Being impaired is no excuse. Someone is “asking for it” if they’ve communicated with you clearly that yes, they are down to have sex. Not if they lean over at the bar, not if you think their skirt is too short and not even if they just pique your interest. There is no excuses for sexually assaulting someone.
If you see someone receiving unwanted sexual attention, do something to stop it. Walk over and diffuse the situation, alert security or someone who is more fit to help if you cannot. Report the perp — be loud if you have to. Getting surrounding people aware of the situation is a quick, easy way to diffuse it and it’s relatively safe as most people will not try to physically harm you with an audience.
If you know someone who struggles with past experiences of assault, be there for them. Check up on them every so often. Make sure they have the resources they may need and accept they simply may not be ready to talk about it sometimes.