by Jenna’e Rainney
President Obama marked April to be National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. But sexual assault is actually viewed as a public health issue and it affects the lives of people. Yet many are unaware of what defines sexual assault and how to lessen their chances of becoming a victim.
Rape, molestation, and anything that forces a sexual act is considered to be a form of sexual assault. Verbal abuse can also be viewed as a form of sexual assault. It does not necessarily have to be done by an outsider. It can occur within a home by a family member. Statistics show that 18 percent of women in the US have reported a rape which occurred at some point in their lives. Rape is actually one of the least reported crimes that take place per year. Women from ages 16 to 24 are at greater risk of being raped, although it can happen at any age.
Virginia State University recently held a Sexual Assault Awareness event in the student union. The university counseling center helped coordinate this program and tables were set up with information and pamphlets. There was an organized unity walk on University Ave., the main street on VSU’s campus. Students were given red flags and whistles. This entire event was very informative and showed unity and genuine concern about this issue from the staff as well as the students. The program showed students and participants that sexual assault can happen to anyone at just about any place. People should always be cautious of what is going on around them and have some safety methods in store for later use.
How to reduce your chances of being sexually assaulted:
- Be aware of your surroundings.
- Don’t leave any of your belongings lying around like keys, purse or drinks.
- Trust your instincts. If it feels like something is wrong then trust your judgment and remove yourself from the situation.
- Avoid walking alone after dark, especially in isolated spots.
- Always leave doors locked, meaning your house and your car.
- Keep your car in good shape and always filled with gas.
- Avoid going to large events alone.
- Be confident.
- Be assertive.
What to do if you are sexually assaulted:
- Get away from the predator as soon as possible and call 911.
- Do not shower, comb or clean any of your body. Doing so may remove evidence.
- Do not change clothes.
- Call a close friend or family member that you trust or a crisis hotline that can give you directions.
- Go to the nearest hospital as soon as possible. Get examined for any sexually transmitted diseases, injuries and even for pregnancy.
- Ask the hospital about possible support groups that you are able to join.
- Feelings of guilt, frustration, shame and shock are normal and you may want to think about seeking professional help.
For information or help, contact:
- National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 (TDD)
- National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)