Today is International Women’s Day, part of “Women in History Month,” both acknowledging women as the makers of history and their continuing struggle to attain equal footing with men in society. But while we celebrate women’s achievements, we must remain conscious of the hurdles they still must overcome.
The most severe problem affecting women in America is sexual assault. One in four women is likely to become victims of sexual assault while in college, and women 16 to 19-years-old are four times more likely to be assaulted than any other age group. Sexual assault is by far one of the most heinous crimes and unfortunately these crimes occur quite regularly in San Luis Obispo.
A recent national study showed that, on average, sexual assault occurs every 90 seconds and domestic violence four times every minute. Last year the Sexual Assault Recovery and Prevention Center (SARP) of SLO reported 367 sexual assault crimes, and estimate that approximately twice that many went unreported.
Even more frightening than the sheer number of assaults that occur, are the conditions surrounding the incidents. More than 80 percent of sexual assault crimes are committed by acquaintance, and over 75 percent of these acquaintance rapes involve alcohol or other debilitating drugs like roofies and GHB.
Clearly there exists a severe problem that is affecting millions of women in America. And I must be clear when I say it’s not just the responsibility of women to put an end to the violence. It is time for men to stand up in solidarity and say no more sexual assault!
Last week we held a Sexual Assault Free Environment Resource (SAFER) training for student leaders in ASI as a first step towards creating a campus climate that does not tolerate violence against women. SAFER training is available for free to any club or organization on campus that is interested in educating their membership about the facts behind sexual assault and the strategies to prevent and cope with these crimes. If your group is interested in learning more about SAFER training or other ways to support the effort to end sexual assault, the Women’s Center is an incredible resource.
For men, there is a group forming through the Women’s Center called ‘1 in 4’ which is committed to training male students to educate peer groups of young men about preventing sexual assault and supporting survivors during the recovery period. Peer-to-peer communication is the most effective method of delivering messages, so it is extremely important that men join in this effort. Men can stop sexual assault. We can use our power to protect.
For those of us who are committed to stopping sexual crimes against women and keeping our community safe, here are a few tips that we should keep in mind:
Assess. Be able to recognize a potentially threatening situation as it develops, including aggressive behavior, severe intoxication and overly persistent attempts to be alone
Acknowledge. Always be honest with yourself, your friends and others and acknowledge when a potentially threatening situation is occurring.
Act. If you see someone who appears to be at risk, don’t hesitate to ask if they’re OK. It’s as easy as asking if they would like some water or fresh air.
Support. If you encounter a survivor, remember to reassure them that it was not their fault. It can never be the fault of a victim to fall prey to the intolerable acts of a perpetrator.
Always remember the importance of individual action to stop sexual assault. If an incident occurs in a crowded place, the bystander factor usually kicks in, and nobody acts to help the victim. When one courageous person acts, it can break the ice and a community of support will join in. We should all do our best to be that person who breaks the ice and work towards stopping sexual assault.
Tylor Middlestadt is the ASI president and a Mustang Daily columnist who is committed to working to stop violence against women. He can be reached at email@example.com, 756-5828 or AIM: CPASI President