April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Use your voice to support survivors and say “No More to Sexual Assault”.

The call came in at 1:18 am to tell me that I was to report to a Sexual Assault Nurses Exam (S.A.N.E.) at the hospital. As I was quietly getting dressed so as not to wake my family, my thoughts were on the sexual assault survivor, a young woman who lived in our area. I knew this wasn’t going to be an easy night for her. When I arrived at the hospital, I hurried into the ER where the assault victim was already in a hospital gown waiting for her exam. Tears streamed down her face, her hair was a mess, bruises were starting to form under her eye and around her neck. She had no one in the area to call as she lay there recounting her rape. The man who assaulted her on her way to her car after her work shift was a customer that came in often to the restaurant where she worked. My heart broke for all she went through and all that she would need to deal with moving forward. This was just the start of a long road to recovery.

Imagine if you will, being alone, violently raped, with no family around to give you support, laying in a hospital emergency room with the last of your humility draining away. This is the reality of a sexual assault situation. It is potentially the start of a legal process that will constantly remind the survivor of that night, over and over again, as they recount the events to various medical and law enforcement professionals, the prosecutor, and, if they are lucky, therapists to help them learn to heal.

In a report published online at FiveThirtyEight.com on January 2, 2018, it was determined by a survey that out of 100 sexual assault incidents, 84 were reported by women and 16 were reported by men. “Most research on sexual violence focuses on male perpetrators and female victims, though the NCVS estimates that men were victims of over 51,000 incidents of rape or sexual assault last year”. Another startling fact reported is how the victims knew their offender. Out of 100 incidents surveyed, 33 reported being in an intimate relationship with the offender, 39 reported being attacked by an acquaintance and 19 reported not knowing their attacker. Surprisingly, out of 100 incidents, 77 were NOT reported to the police. Why would survivors not report an assault? Many list fear of not being believed, self-blame and concerns about how the justice system will handle the incident as reasons for remaining silent. The main reason for not reporting a sexual assault to the police is fear of reprisal or the fact that they consider the event a private matter.

For more information and tips for talking with survivors of sexual assault go to www.rainn.org/articles/tips-talking-survivors-sexual-assault or contact Community Referral Agency, a temporary shelter for survivors of sexual assault or domestic violence and their families located in Milltown, WI, at www.crashelter.org.

Submitted by: Community Referral Agency

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