I have seen a lot of progress in the way of sexual consent awareness on our campus. The Yes! Always campaign has been making major strides in the way of educational events and social media posts. Articles are continually written by The Sagebrush regarding the importance of consent. I have even had private conversations with people about their efforts to be more aware and consent conscious in their sexual endeavors. However, there is a side of the sexual assault issue we seem to be forgetting. What happens to someone after an assault? I firmly support continuously pushing sexual assault prevention and educating individuals about consent. However, there will unfortunately always be victims of sexual assault; we need to listen to them and have an even more difficult conversation.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime and Victimization Survey conducted in 2012, it is estimated that there are 293,066 victims (ages 12 and older) of sexual assault each year in the U.S. Let me reiterate. These results are estimated, based on the results of a survey, of people ages 12 and older, in 2012. These facts are important because they reinforce the very sad truth that we do not actually know how many people are victims of sexual assault in this country, which logically brings us to conclude that it is nearly impossible to bring perpetrators to justice or even know who they are. The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) (once again) estimates that 68 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to police, 98 percent of rapists will never spend a day in jail and that 44 percent of victims are under the age of 18. These are estimates, but these shocking numbers expose the faults of our nation’s lack of understanding and handling sexual assault.
For non-victims, coming forward may seem like the only option after an attack. However, it is a lot easier to say this when you aren’t actually facing the consequences of coming out and unfortunately, there are almost always consequences. Victims are often embarrassed and feel guilty or responsible for their attack; given the amount of victim blaming that still goes on in this country it’s easy to understand why (though victim blaming is incredibly immoral). Another reason victims stay quiet is largely due to the fact that ⅘ assaults are committed by someone the victim knows, according to RAINN. If the assailant is a family member, friend or co-worker, you can imagine it would be difficult to confront them and come out to the people around you and possibly be judged or accused of lying. Then there is the process of legal actions taken if a victim does decide to come forward. Rape kits (the medical procedure performed on victims shortly after an attack to collect evidence) is often called “the second rape” because it is invasive and for many victims, extremely traumatizing and uncomfortable. Further down the court process, victim interviews force the victim to recount and relive every detail of their experience to minute detail, which once again is traumatizing. Not to mention once all of this effort is put forth, the trauma experienced and the story is out there, only 2 percent of rapists actually see any jail time.
It’s time to put an end to the suffering of victims of sexual assault. This isn’t something victims ask for; it isn’t something anybody asks for. I implore everyone to attend Take Back the Night on April 20 in front of the Knowledge Center so you can personally hear the stories of countless victims in a safe space for them to do so. Take Back the Night is a beautiful and powerful event where victims can speak about their experiences away from the pressures of taking action and are allowed to express their pain and anger. This event also highlights the importance of victims’ advocacy and supporting victims after an attack. Please open yourself to the experiences of victims, gain new perspectives and let their voices be heard. You can make a difference.
Lauren Gray studies journalism. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.