Group wants to end silence over assaultsDid you know that sexual assault is one of the most unreported crimes? Statistics indicate that less than one-third of sexual assault cases are reported to law enforcement.
By: Celeste Beam, Alexandria Echo Press
Did you know that sexual assault is one of the most unreported crimes?
Statistics indicate that less than one-third of sexual assault cases are reported to law enforcement.
The reason why might have something to do with self-blame, according to Amity Schneider, a sexual assault/general crime advocate at Someplace Safe in Alexandria.
Schneider said that many sexual assault cases, which are considered any forced or unwanted sexual contact, are alcohol or drug related. And most victims, who are typically women, are between the ages of 16 and 23.
During the month of April, which was recently proclaimed Sexual Assault Awareness Month by Governor Tim Pawlenty and President Barack Obama, Someplace Safe advocates are asking citizens to educate themselves on the subject of sexual assault and to start reporting when an assault takes place.
In addition, they are asking the public to visit the Creative H.O.P.E. art exhibit at the Douglas County Library. The exhibit will open on Monday, April 20 and run through Friday, April 24.
In Douglas County, during the 2008 fiscal year, Schneider said there were 23 cases of sexual assault reported. The fiscal year ended in October of 2008. Since that time, the number of cases reported have doubled, if not tripled, said Schneider.
“This is both good and bad,” she said. “It is horrible that it’s happening, but it’s good to see that people are starting to report it.”
Schneider feels that more cases are being reported because there has been more of a push in public awareness on the subject of sexual assault.
She, herself, has done several presentations about sexual assault throughout the community, including at the local schools.
When victims report a sexual assault incident, advocates at Someplace Safe will typically meet with them at the hospital or location where the assault was reported.
Advocates often lend a caring ear and will help victims through the process, whether it’s help with filing an order for protection or getting a restraining order against the perpetrator or reading a victim impact statement at a hearing or maybe it’s just holding a victim’s hand through an exam.
“We are just there to empower them and help them feel secure,” said Schneider. “We offer support and are non-judgmental. We don’t tell them what to do, but let them know they will be OK and will try and talk them out of self blame.”
Most sexual assault cases are considered to be non-stranger attacks, meaning date rape or an attack by a family member or friend, noted Schneider.
“When people think of an attack, they often think of a stranger in the bushes,” she said, “but that’s not the case anymore.”
Non-stranger attacks account for about 80 to 85 percent of the cases.
Schneider said there are many myths related to sexual assault, including that just because someone says yes once, that the next time around it’s still a yes. That’s not true, she said.
“No still means no, no matter when it’s said,” Schneider explained. “If someone is too inebriated and can’t give consent, that means no. You can go as far as you want. You can kiss, you can wear whatever clothes you want. When no is said, it means no. Period.”
The Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault website lists many more myths about sexual assault. To read more, visit www.mncasa.org/about_myths.html.
According to statistics, Schneider said that an American is sexually assaulted every two minutes and that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually assaulted by the time they reach the age of 18.
“It may be difficult to talk about, but it has to be talked about,” said Schneider. “People need to talk about it in their schools and in their homes. It needs to be stopped.”
For more information, to request a presentation, or to get involved, contact Someplace Safe at (320) 762-1995 to speak with Schneider or another trained advocate.