Written By Killian Lynch
*Possible SA trigger warnings
Americans don’t hear about sexual assault the way we once did. The media, as it does with all things violent or tragic, has numbed our ears to the cries for help. It’s almost as if the background noise of our life has become a constant newsreel, reeling, forever playing out the terrible things around us, even in the midst of wonderful things. I don’t by any means long for the days when talking about sexual assault was rare. I don’t yearn for these days because I don’t believe that the lack of conversation equated to a lack of violations. The simple truth is that sexual assault of all kinds is everywhere, happening to victims of all kinds, being perpetrated by people of all kinds. RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) published statistics claiming 1 out of every 6 women will be raped in their lifetime. Astounding. More shockingly, to some, is the statistic stating 1 out of every 33 men will be raped in their lifetime, which is a phenomenon few seem to be talking about. If so many of those around us are having these often traumatic experiences, it’s alarming it’s not the only thing we talk about.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness month. If not every month, then this is the one to have these conversations, mention these resources, and try change this heinous fact. The society we live in, that bred this, has no doubt done such because there’s a lack of education, a lack of support, and most obvious is a lack of consent. To describe the complex yet astonishingly simple parameters of consent is for another article. The number one priority of this article, is to offer hope to those whose consent has been stolen or ignored.
Experts, like those at RAINN, say the majority of rapes and other cases of sexual assault are underreported. It claims 2 out of every 3 cases are not reported. The reasons someone might not report an assault are numerous. Many assaults occur inside relationships, where the victim is either unsure that it was an assault or afraid of the repercussions in their relationship. Other reasons may include humiliation, manipulation, and fear. No matter their situation, our community is committed to the safety and comfort of those that have experienced assault.
In our school, the process of handling an assault is different for every case. It begins with letting someone know. The trauma of a victim is no one’s business, but it’s a trauma that is best dealt with the support of trusted adults. Many cannot go to their families with these issues. Be assured, any adult on our campus is more than willing to hear your story and help you into whatever direction you choose. I was told, by one of our school counselors Ms. Van Zanten, that their department is dedicated to transparency throughout the entire process. If the report they are given involves statutory rape (generally meaning the perpetrator was over 18 and the victim was under 18), they are required to tell the Department of Human Services. This sounds scary. It was made very clear to me, however, that the student’s wishes are taken into heavy consideration. Their job is not to have anyone arrested, or removed from their homes, but rather to keep everyone involved as safe as possible.
If you have experienced a situation, in any context, to any degree, that made you feel as if this applies to you, I strongly encourage you to reach out. Whatever hesitations you may have mattered the people at our school. They want you to be safe and happy, and there are tools that make that happen.
Consider the number of people around you, and how many of them may know about this topic all too well. Create a space where these people can talk about it, where we can all talk about it. Be compassionate and be brave.