Written by Allison Perry. Media by Tawnie Kozora.
In the 1970’s many women in England held protests called “Take Back the Night” marches against the assaults countless women were experiencing. The year of 1978 was the first year these marches were held in the United States. As the marches continued each year, they began to bring into focus the fact that men are victims, too. Each decade, the actions taken to bring awareness to sexual assault became stronger. However, it was not until April 1, 2001, that Sexual Assault Awareness Month was acknowledged nationally here in the United States.
What exactly is sexual assault, you may be wondering. The definition of sexual assault is “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual
activities such as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.”. Some would say sexual assault needs to be forced; some believe it has to be aggressive. However, that is completely wrong, as stated in the last quote. Sexual assault can be something many find to be harmless, such as a man grabbing a woman’s thigh as he says hello to her. I can attest to this personally. I don’t know about you, but when another person whom I have not given any form of consent to touch my thigh touches it, it’s an incredibly uncomfortable situation, no matter what is intended. It is sexual assault because my body is not to be touched by someone I have not given consent to.
Now that we have that cleared up, let’s talk about statistics. An average of 321,500 people (12 years or older) in the United States are made victims to sexual assault each year. Fifteen percent of these are between the ages of 12 and 17, while 54% are between the ages of 18 and 34. In America, 1 out of every 6 women will fall victim to sexual assault in her lifetime, while 1 out of every 10 rape victims is male. The list of statistics goes on.
How can we change this? Don’t you want to know how we can prevent sexual assault? The answer to this is tough. Society wants to tell women, specifically, what they should and should not do in order to avoid being sexually assaulted. I’ve heard things like “don’t go places that charge men, but allow women in for free and hand out free drinks,” “don’t walk alone at night,” “don’t take drinks from men you don’t know and trust,” and of course the most popular, but ignorant ones: “don’t drink too much” and “don’t dress like a ‘slut’.” What really needs to be done to prevent sexual assault is to teach people not to commit it, but the system doesn’t do too well with this. We quite often see sexual assault perpetrators let out early, not given the punishment they deserve, and oftentimes coming back into society only to commit these and other crimes again due to the lack of punishment. So, first, we must demand that this be changed. If perpetrators are not punished, it shows others who may commit these crimes that they can get away with it.
Another change that should be made is parents and schools should hit the topic harder than it is
hit presently. I remember being in elementary school and learning about good and bad spots and what to do when someone touches me somewhere wrong, but the older I got the less I learned. I was only required to take one high school health class. Teens need to be taught about what sexual assault is every single year, not for just one year or one semester. The topic should be discussed daily. Colleges should be touching on this subject, too, on the daily.