This is my third year writing for the sexual assault special edition of the Spectrum and, every year I struggle with what I should write about. I have written about how to be a supportive friend if someone opens up to you about this and I have written about how sexual assault affects men and women.
Since I am intending to work in an eventual career field that requires advocacy work, this special edition is near and dear to my heart because I desire so badly to make an impact on the world and I feel that when people have an opportunity to bring awareness to an important issue, they are obligated to do so.
I earnestly hope that when people read this edition of this Spectrum, they feel seen. I hope people feel that they matter and that recovering is worth all the hard work. Yet, when you look out into the world, when you see the brokenness on your friend’s face as they tell you their story it’s so easy to become discouraged.
The national sexual violence resources center has declared the theme of this month “Drawing Connections: Prevention Demands Equity”. While the theme of this month wants us to draw connections to the way sexual assault is connected to these much larger social issues (which is important). I want to focus attention on this article on the importance of connection as in human connection.
I would like to be able to report to you that by deepening our relationships with other people, we are safer, but that’s necessarily true. RAINN reports that in 8 of 1o rapes, the victim knows their rapist. These statistics are even more damning when it comes to children, as RAINN also reported that “93% of juvenile victims knew the perpetrator’.
As much as crime shows like Criminal Minds would like us to believe that to be safer we need to keep our keys in our hands, and pepper spray on our key chains, the monsters lurking in the dark are far more likely to be someone we know.
So, when we talk about connections, let’s talk about what it means to be a good friend and good partner. The basis of both is respect. If you have someone who you are attracted to, who happens to be your friend, they don’t owe you anything. If you go on a date with someone, and you choose to buy them dinner, you don’t owe them anything.
You’re not entitled to anyone else’s body. No one else is entitled to your body. Even when you’re married, if a husband truly respects his wife, one of the ways he should respect her is by honoring her boundaries. We need to be teaching our children A) what consent is, and what it is not. B) Children are allowed to say no and how to advocate for themselves. C) Our kids need to know that they can tell us if they don’t feel safe around an adult orwhat to do if an adult is behaving inappropriately around them.
We need to be connected with the people and community around us as well. Victims need to know that they have resources available to them. They need to know they have friends they can talk to and support them through their crisis. Communities need to support those who have been made to feel like no one would believe them, and that they aren’t worthy of respect.
Even with the heartbreaking statistics arounf sexual assault, I do think that the solution to the problem of the sexual violence epidemic in this country is our connection with others. If we see one another through a lens of respect and dignity, this problem will solve itself.
To love someone else is to put their needs first over your own. If you love and care about someone, their boundaries and your respect for them should take precedence over your pleasure.
As much as this is a social issue, it’s also a heart issue.
If you have been sexually assaulted, know you are not alone. If you need support, you can call (701)293-7273. NDSU’s counseling center is also free to all NDSU students and I would encourage you to talk to a licensed professional when you are ready. If you’re not there yet, you can talk to a close friend.