Sexual assault myths busted

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    By Ashley Wilson
    Rise Above Violence 

    How do we end sexual violence in Pagosa? 

    Step one is awareness; the activities and education Rise Above Violence provides to the community start with this idea. Awareness and education shared in our community bring us all up to speed so that we can tackle the issue together as a community. 

    The second step is local action, which includes sharing the information you know, coming out to events to show a physical solidarity with victims, stepping up in our social circles to call out inappropriate jokes and language, as well as being the voice of victims to our local and state legislators. 

    Today we are both bringing awareness and being a voice for victims by busting myths about rape and sexual assault. We have all heard many stories about what causes sexual abuse, where it occurs and what type of people are the victims and perpetrators. As more and more victims have been brave enough to come forward with their stories in recent years, our society has been able to learn more about sexual assault and debunk many of the myths most of us were raised to believe. Below are some common misconceptions alongside the facts. 

    Myth: If she hadn’t gotten drunk, she wouldn’t have been raped.

    Fact: The natural result of getting drunk is a hangover, not a sexual assault. Would we say a homeowner deserved to be burglarized because he or she drank too much, fell asleep and forgot to lock the front door? 

    Myth: If Sally walks into a bar and has a few alcoholic beverages, she is responsible for what happens to her later that evening because she chose to drink. 

    Fact: This “assumption of risk” wrongfully places the responsibility of the offender’s actions with the victim. Even if a person went voluntarily to someone’s residence or room and/or even consented to engage in some sexual activity, it does not serve as a blanket consent for all sexual activity. If a person is unsure about whether the other person is comfortable with an elevated level of sexual activity, the person should stop and ask. When someone says “No” or “Stop,” that means stop. If a person is too drunk or high to be awake and alert (e.g., is passed out) that person cannot give consent. Thus, any sexual activity toward a passed out person is, by definition, nonconsensual. Sexual activity forced upon another without consent is sexual assault. In Colorado, that is a felony. Source: Title 18, Colorado Revised Statutes.

    Myth: If you are wearing inappropriate or suggestive clothing, you are “asking for it.” 

    Fact: As with alcohol or drug consumption, this myth blames the victim for the perpetrator’s behavior. If a resident leaves his or her window open to cool down the home in summer, is he or she asking to be burglarized? To be raped? Not according to the law (or common sense). 

    Myth: Most sexual assaults are committed by strangers.

    Fact: Most sexual assaults and rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. Among victims aged 18 to 29, two-thirds had a prior relationship with the offender. Among victims under 18, the abuser is almost always a family member or person in a position of trust (babysitter, coach, scout leader, youth minister, etc.). Source: www.law.georgetown.edu.

    Myth: It isn’t sexual abuse if you are married. Whatever a husband does to his wife is OK.

    Fact: It is illegal in Colorado and most other states to sexually abuse your spouse. A marriage does not authorize forced sexual relations anymore than a marriage entitles one spouse to murder the other. Citation: Title 18, Colorado Revised Statutes.

    Myth: Only women can be victims of sexual assault. 

    Fact: Approximately 24.8 percent of men report sexual victimization, which includes completed or attempted forced penetration and sexual coercion. Of those victims, 51.3 percent were under the age of 18 years old and 26 percent were 10 years old and younger. Source: CDC and NSVRC.

    Myth: The most dangerous place for children to be sexually abused is by a stranger on the streets.

    Fact: Most sexual abuse of children occurs in a residence, typically that of the child or the perpetrator. 84 percent of sexual victimization of children under age 12 occurs in a home. Of sexual abuse reported to law enforcement, 93 percent of children knew the perpetrator: 59 percent were acquaintances, 34 percent were family members, and only 7 percent were strangers of the victim. Source: cachouston.org, RAINN.

    All of the services provided through Rise Above Violence are free to victims and survivors. One way to help in our local community is to donate. Your gift provides critical services for healing. 

    The Push-Up challenge is wrapping up tomorrow and the teams and individuals participating have been working hard all month doing 25 push-ups a day and raising funds. Please consider supporting one of the challengers: www.riseaboveviolence.org/push-up-challenge.

    Rise Above Violence is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides 24-hour support and advocacy services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault or other forms of violence, serving over 300 victims each year. Rise also works to eliminate violence through education for youth and our community. All programs and services are free and confidential, including emergency prevention education and empowerment programs. Visit www.riseaboveviolence.org for more information or call (970) 264-9075 to talk to an advocate today.