Search for solutions to sexual violence
Most perpetrators of sexual violence are men. Most are white. Most know the person they attack.
About 17 percent of women and 3 percent of men in the U.S. say they have been raped or experienced an attempted rape, according to the National Institute of Justice. Fifteen percent of sexual assault and rape victims are under 12, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Forty-four percent are under 18. Eighty percent are under 30.
Five percent of boys in ninth through 12th grade report being sexually abused. Almost one in five women reports being a victim of sexual violence during college.
The depressing statistics go on and on. Sexual violence is one of the worst crimes that can be visited on someone.
“I just keep thinking about the violation that occurs with sexual violence,” Aurelia Sands-Belle, executive director of the Durham Crisis Response Center, told reporter Jamica Ashley. “It’s just the invasion of a person, an invasion that is not only physical, but it’s emotional and psychological and trying to recover from that is a challenge.”
There are lasting after-affects from sexual violence, ranging from victims being at greater risk than the general population for alcohol abuse to suicidal thoughts.
So how do we stop sexual assaults?
Talking about the problem is certainly an important part of the solution. Erasing any remaining stigmas, encouraging victims to report assaults and educating people about what constitutes sexual assault should all be part of that dialogue.
But there is more that can be done.
Active bystander programs are being employed by college campuses (including workshops held on our own local college campuses), the military and community groups across the country. This approach encourages people to identify and find ways to safely intervene when they see situations that could escalate into an assault or rape.
Advocates say the approach shows promise because it allows the community to take ownership of the issue and it puts the focus on prevention.
The U.S. Coast Guard on its website provides suggestions for how active bystanders might intervene in deteriorating situations: Come up with an excuse to give a potential victim a reason to separate from a potential perpetrator; let a bartender or host of a party know when someone has had too much to drink; talk to the victim or potential victim to make sure he or she is OK; address any disrespectful behavior in a manner that is courteous but firm to avoid violence; call the police; distract those engaged in harassing behavior.
If any of these actions helps lower the statistics, they are well worth taking. As we make our way through Sexual Assault Awareness Month, consider whether you will be an active or a passive bystander and how that choice might change someone’s life.