By Bridget Seelinger | Student Columnist
“We don’t have a problem with sexual assault here.”
I can’t count the number of times that I have heard this said. Regardless of what country you are in or where you go to school, sexual assault is a problem and we need to start talking about it. It affects men, women, children, the elderly and those with disabilities. Every age group, ethnic group, education group and income level is affected by sexual assault.
But what is it?
Sexual assault is not just rape. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, “Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.”
Last year the City of Pittsburgh’s Department of Violent Crimes reported 90 rapes, which was an increase from the 51 rapes in 2013 and 39 rapes in 2012. What’s difficult to tell about this is whether the victims of the crimes are actually reporting them and pressing charges, which is why the number would increase, or whether there are actually more rapes taking place.
Why are people not reporting these things, though? Victims have plenty of reasons.
The first is peer pressure. How many times have you heard this one? A girl is raped and the next morning she tells her friends. Her friends talk her out of going to the emergency room or the police by saying things like, “You don’t want to get him kicked out of school,” and “He really didn’t know what he was doing because he was drunk too,” and “It’s not really a big deal.” This happens every day because for whatever reason, this crime is not considered as important as something like homicide or theft.
The truth is that it is important. Victims of rape often experience serious mental and physical health problems afterwards. Someone who is raped runs the risk of getting sexually transmitted infections such as HIV, gonorrhea or syphilis, and that’s not to mention pregnancy. Even if for those reasons alone, a victim of rape needs medical attention, and they need it as quickly as they can get it.
The second is false information. How many times have you heard that you only have 72 hours to go get a kit done if you’re raped? This is one of the most harmful untruths out there. There have been cases where it was over a month after the assault occurred that evidence was collected and the assailant was jailed as a result. Over a month. DNA gets trapped in the teeth and on the skin.
There is literally no reason whatsoever that you should not get a kit done. Even if you don’t want to press charges, get the kit done. The police will store it for several years so if you change your mind, you have the option of pressing charges. Sure, you’ll get better results if you go as soon as you can, but you never know what will be found. The emergency room won’t turn you away.
The third is embarrassment. Our culture today is trying desperately to tell us that sex doesn’t matter or that sex is just a whimsical thing that doesn’t mean anything. This just isn’t true. Dr. Miriam Grossman published a booklet called “Sense and Sexuality” where she talked about the different responses the human body has to sex in regard to “hookup culture.”
She states that “intimate behavior floods your brain with a chemical that fuels attachment … a woman cannot have so many partners without paying a price.”
That price, Dr. Grossman argues, is a person’s mental health as well as physical health. So think about rape in regard to this. If you have something that is so valuable, literally taken away from you without your consent, think about the consequences of that. How are you going to react? About 13 percent of rape victims attempt suicide. The reason for this is that the crime does matter and there’s no way to get around it.
These reasons are just few as to why victims of sexual assault do not report it. There is so much more going on that people are blissfully unaware of, or these victims are and they are just choosing not to act. People would like to think that they are immune to crimes committed, but no one is immune. It could be you next. Who will be there to fight for you, if we don’t fight for our victims today?
We need to get the right information out there and encourage people to seek legal action. It doesn’t matter that the assailant may be seeking a great career and you might mess it up. What matters is that this person raped you and that’s not okay.