This post contains the subject of rape and sexual assaults which can be triggering for some. If it is for you, don’t read this. I will not take offense to it.
As you may or may not know, April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. It is a cause that affects honestly everyone. There is a very high chance that you may know someone who has been sexually assaulted at some point in their life. What is sexual assault? The term “sexual assault” means any nonconsensual sexual act proscribed by Federal, tribal, or State law, including when the victim lacks capacity to consent. According to the National Sexual Violence Research Center (NSVRC), some startling facts were revealed:
- 81% of women and 43% of men experienced some sort of sexual harassment in their lifetime
- 1 in 3 women have had attempted rapes happen to them
- 1 in 5 women have been raped or have had attempted rapes happen to them
- 24% of men have had some form of sexual violence happen to them
- 40.8% of women and 15.2% of men were raped or sexually assualted by acquaintances
- Between 2%-10% are false reports of rape or sexual assault.
A lot of cases are sadly, not reported so that number can be even higher. I know for some minority communities, rape or sexual assault is swept under the rug. According to RAINN, the Department of Justice, females who are 12 and older have experienced higher rates of rape and assault than any other group. They feel like they have fewer options at reporting cases because of institutional and historical factors. Fear of the police can also be a factor as well. They’re either scared the police won’t believe them or take them serious or they fear being assaulted by the police as well. They may fear retaliation from their family or community. They fear being pegged as the “fast” child or as a liar or is villainized. Some mothers will disbelieve their daughters and will side with the man. Maybe its for financial reasons. Maybe they’re in denial about what is happening.
And if you’re a man and is sexually assaulted or raped, it can be embarrassing or they can be pegged a liar. Take actor Terry Crews. He came forward with his story of sexual abuse and the black community was angry towards him. One website called Crews “the worst kind of black man”. He claimed that he was at a party and was groped in his privates by a Hollywood executive. If you don’t know what he looks like, he’s a former football player. He’s not a small guy and he was sexually assaulted. He told his agent about it but it fell on deaf ears. In his own words:
“The assault lasted only minutes, but what he was effectively telling me while he held my genitals in his hand was that he held the power. That he was in control,” Crews told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “As I shared my story, I was told over and over that this was not abuse. This was just a joke. This was just horseplay. But I can say one man’s horseplay is another man’s humiliation.”
It was difficult for me to share my story. I have been assaulted as a child by a stranger and by an intimate partner myself. I honestly felt fear about speaking up and honestly, I was afraid of the fallout as a child. I wrote about it in my book and on a blog post. I was afraid of sharing my story. Not one person knew about what has happened to me until I wrote my book. It was something I carried and still cannot talk about verbally. It’s too hard. I got the courage to “speak” up about my experience through the courage of a old co-worker of mine. She is extremely outspoken about it and passionate about it and I felt compelled to share my story.
What happens when there is “accountability”? Well let’s look at the Brock Turner case. He went to Stanford and was on the swim team and was 19 at the time of the crimes. He sexually assaulted several women. He received a slap on the wrist. He received six months in jail for the sexual assault of several women. Six months. How much did he end up serving? Three months. Why such little time? The judge didn’t think it was fair to him to have that on his record. He is, however, registered as a sexual offender for the rest of his life and the judge was recalled in a later election. His victims? Well Chanel Miller, one of his victims, is now an advocate and she has a book (that’s really good by the way. I listened to it on audio and it moved me).
It’s not just Brock Turner. Others have had lenient sentencing as well. CNN even put out an article about it. It’s a long one but if you have the time, please check it out. According to RAINN, out of 1,000 Perpetrators of sexual assault, 975 walk away free. 310 cases are reported out of 1,000. 2 out of 3 go unreported. Those figures are quite concerning. When will it end?
If you have been the victim yourself and haven’t come forward yet, come forward please. Of course do it when you’re ready but thus cycle has to stop. You may encourage someone else to come forward and speak up about what has happened to that individual. Go to a counselor. A trusted friend or family member. A therapist. Tell someone. Click here if you need resources.