Dating: The Invisible Problem

Assault happens. But it doesn’t happen to us. You know. Us. It can’t possibly happen to you, or me, or the girl next to you in the library because, well, that stuff just doesn’t happen. Right?

False. That’s the number one reason sexual assaults are still prevalent in society today. People (men and women) just assume that even if it’s happened to someone they know, it won’t happen to them. Why not? I have no idea, but even I’ve believed it from time to time. Deep down, I know it’s absolutely not true. And that scares me.

April was Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and here are some facts to break it down (courtesy of RAINN, Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network).

  • Forty-four percent of victims of sexual assault or rape are under the age of 18. Eighty percent are under the age of 30. 
  • Every two minutes, someone in the U.S. (man or woman, it can happen to both) is sexually assaulted.
  • Fifty-four percent of sexual assaults are not reported to police.
  • Around two-thirds of assaults are committed by someone the victim knows personally.
  • Seventeen point seven million American women have been either raped, or a victim of attempted rape.

In other words, this problem is bigger than you think. I’m really not here to use fear tactics or anything, because I’m not into that, but it’s definitely something young men and women have to know about (as much as that fact makes me very, very sad). 

Mizzou has a lot of great facilities for sexual assault and rape victims, like the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center (RSVP). It can be found in the lower level of the Student Center and has a fantastic staff of experts on violence, sexual assault, rape and abuse. Take it from someone who’s met these people; they’re phenomenal. There’s no judgement, no blame -- just unconditional support, help and, really, love.

Alright, so let’s go through the basics:

Remember: Whether you’re being abused in a relationship, have been or are being sexually assaulted, or raped, it is not your fault. This is not your fault. It is never your fault.

If you’ve been raped or sexually assaulted, as much as you’re going to want to, don’t shower. Don’t wash off any DNA that the police could use, and don’t change your clothes. It’s going to be an awful feeling, but don’t. STARS at Mizzou (Stronger Together Against Relationship and Sexual Violence) has an amazing program involving giving clothing to rape victims that you have to check out. Police confiscate all clothing (including underwear) at the time the rape kit is done at the hospital. So victims are sometimes left with hand-me-down underwear. STARS is working to change that, and they’re succeeding.

If you believe you’re in an abusive relationship, check out this list of possible abusive behaviors. Then, tell someone. They can help you. Please don’t believe you’re alone and that no one can stop your abuser (regardless of sex). Someone can help you, and they can only help you if you ask.

Counseling programs and help centers exist all over the country (True North in Columbia is a great one). Please go get help if you need it. There is no stigma or shame in reaching out. It could save your life.

Going through sexual assault, abuse, or rape can be traumatizing. There’s a reason people refer to rape victims as “survivors.” As much as I wish I didn’t have to write an article like this, I will because I don’t want you to face something like this alone. Dating violence and abuse can happen to anyone. It is never okay, and it is also never your fault.

Repeat after me: You were not asking for it. You did not lead him/her on. You were not too drunk. You were not too high. You were not dressed too skanky. You are not at fault.

The only person who did something wrong is the person who hurt you. And if you can speak up and stand up (with the support of hundreds of thousands of other women who have gone through this too), maybe you can start to change the world we live in.

And if you know someone who has been raped, do not shun them. Do not blame them. Do not act differently. Give them control because they might not feel like they have any anymore. Let them know that you are here for them and that you love them. Love is so much more powerful than pain.

Hopefully there will be a day when articles like these are irrelevant and I don’t have to write columns about it anymore because it’s a prehistoric notion, the idea of hurting a woman or man sexually or emotionally (or financially or mentally; there are a lot of forms of abuse) has fallen to the wayside.

I can’t wait for that day. But until then: you are not alone.

Other Online Resources:

By: Alise Murawski | Image: Source


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