Not your typical Saturday night: Overcoming tragedy through group support and conversation

Category:  Opinions
Wednesday, October 25th, 2017 at 2:05 PM

NOTE: This story contains content that may be distressing to some readers. If you or a loved one are going through similar circumstances, try contacting the National Sexual Assault Hotline at (800) 656-HOPE (4673) or through RAINN, where you can chat online with trained professionals. Remember, there are others going through the same thing. You are not alone.

It’s your typical Saturday night at the bar with your friends. Your best friend brought their chem lab partner Kyle who’s always “down for a good time.”

Drinks are being put back left and right. Laughter echoes through the chaos of the intoxicated mob. It’s been a great night and you’re now “trashed.”

As the bartender yells “Last call,” you hop off the stool and see the room spinning around you. Kyle helps you up and guides you out of the bar with the rest of your squad. Everyone is heading home and even though you only live around the block from the bars, he insists on walking you home. Since you just watched the room spin, you agree he can walk you home. What’s the hurt in that anyway? After all, he’s just walking you home. Kyle’s got his arm around your waist, but he claims it’s just because you keep stumbling. Five more steps.

Now you’re home and as you fumble to find the right key, he mentions he needs a place to stay the night. He was supposed to stay with a friend who left the bar early. His story seems legitimate, so you agree to let him crash on your couch.

He didn’t end up sleeping on your couch. As soon as you got inside, it was like a whole new person had taken over Kyle. He began kissing your neck and pushed you up against the wall. His hands were all over your body. This is not what you had expected to happen. It is not what you wanted to happen. You did not give him the consent to touch your body; he did it anyway. Even when you pushed him off, he wouldn’t stop. That’s when things got worse.

I don’t need to explain the rest of the story for you to understand that what happened was wrong. The events in this story were a series of sexual assaults.

Sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior occurring without explicit consent from the victim. Sexual assault comes in a variety of forms; attempted rape, unwanted sexual touching, fondling and penetration (oral and vaginal).

The sad truth is that sexual assault happens more often than we know or calculate. According to the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs (WCSAP), a woman is raped every two minutes in America. Most victims and survivors know their attackers. Although it is still common, it is rare that the attacker is a stranger to the individual.

Imagine the trauma a victim and survivor experiences during, and following an assault.

According to GoodTherapy.org, after an assault occurs, victims are taught their bodies are not their own. As a sexual assault victim myself, I can attest that such violation makes you more susceptible to this ideal.

Most victims and survivors experience issues like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress (PTSD), personality disruptions, addiction and triggers.

The presence of these issues dramatically changes a victim’s life. Due to the trauma of the event, victims and survivors may begin to act different in certain areas of their life, like losing interest in certain things they may have otherwise enjoyed, or following new desires.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD, a study examining 100 women who had been raped found that 94 of the 100 experienced symptoms of PTSD within the first two weeks following the rape. Thirty women were still experiencing symptoms nine months later.

The problem today is we tend to ignore these instances where women are being taken advantage of. The issue is addressed and broadcast throughout the nation, but what is really being done in order to provide aid?

In the past year, we have seen the media blow up, from Brock Turner, Donald Trump, Dr. Luke and Harvey Weinstein. When will we recognize that we have a problem?

Even with sexual assault continually present in the media, rape goes under-reported and unrecognized, leaving victims with little resources in regard to finding help. The U.S. Bureau of Justice and Statistics estimates between 15.8 and 35 percent of sexual assaults are reported to police.

The question we must ask is why? Are we not properly educating individuals on sexual assault? Are victims too afraid to report their assaults? Does the victim feel threatened to keep the assault a secret? Do they feel shamed? Are they worried what people will think? Does anyone believe the individual? Do they even know it is happening to them?

Since sexual assault or sex in general isn’t talked about enough, it is hard for victims to get the help they need. They are unaware of what’s going on with their body. Nothing is their own anymore — at least that’s what it feels like.

Luckily, the media is beginning to cover sexual assault more and more as victims and survivors take action. But it’s going to take more than a little coverage here and there when something goes viral.

Recently, a campaign of women who had been sexually assaulted posting #MeToo has gone viral on social media. The “Me Too” movement was started in 2007 by activist Tarana Burke, so why has it just begun to flood the media?

At least 1.4 million tweets have been made with the hashtag and at least 13 million reactions on Facebook have also surfaced, according to ABC News.

This movement is a step in the right direction, but it is not the end. Reporting sexual assault is still shamed.

It is still under represented and the blame does not fall on the victims. It falls on the failure to properly educate those around us that this is a problem.

We must encourage discussions and support. Let’s find what works and keep the ideas flowing in order to reach the need to the best of our ability.

Hannah Webster is a staff writer for The Spectator.

Tags: voices, opinion

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