By Stephanie Kim, Opinions Editor
Sexual assaults happen every day. It is a reality many of us don’t think about often, yet many are affected every day. April is sexual assault awareness month and is intended to spread both the awareness and prevention of sexual assault. 2021 will mark 20 years since the start of this campaign, beginning in 2001, SAAM (sexual assault awareness month) also deals with harassment and abuse. Though April is past now, it’s important that we remember its intended purpose and spread awareness to prevent others from being affected by it. I spoke with two young women who were open to sharing their experiences and views on sexual assault.
One woman is nineteen years old, she was assaulted at the age of thirteen. The assault happened at the beginning of her eighth-grade year of school. When asked if the assault affected her social life, she told me “I 100% do think it affected a lot. I understand it’s ‘not all men’, but I never thought the one who did it to me would fall into that category, so now I’m cautious around every man I meet and even men I’ve known my whole life.” She went on to tell me about the assault, saying “when it first happened, the guy who did it was a senior in high school and he bragged to his friends that he ‘got with’ a virgin over the weekend, so a lot of rumors were created about it.” This affected her not only her education, but mental health, too. She said, “my mental health also declined and I struggled keeping up with homework and my grades dropped drastically, as well as my attendance.”
Sexual assault does not only affect one aspect of a person’s life but affects the entire scheme of it. I spoke with another female who is twenty-four years old. She was first assaulted around the ages of seven to eight by her mother’s first husband, then again later in life during the ages of twenty to twenty-two. The woman told me at age twenty, “a friend came over with the intent to watch tv and hang out and started getting handsy. I told him to stop…” From there she went on to inform me of how he “raped and sodomized her for about three hours.” She filed a police report and had a rape kit done, yet nothing was done about the event. The next assaults happened during her relationship that lasted a year and a half. She told me, “he made me have sex with him constantly and even if I’d fight he’d still do it” and that her ex was “abusive in every way possible.” Her last assault was by a guy she worked with at age twenty-two. She said, “in the middle of doing things I told him I didn’t want to do it anymore. He coerced me and I finally said ‘just hurry up and get it over with’ and I just kinda took it.”
This twenty-four-year-old told me that her social life “was affected in a lot of ways. I have trust issues, abandonment issues, I used to think my self-worth lied with whether or not I had sex with someone. I had a hard time forming meaningful romantic relationships and platonic, because I always assumed there was another motive. I didn’t want them to get close because then it would just hurt more.” She went on to tell me how her education was affected by the sexual assaults saying, “when I was assaulted back in 2017 [at age twenty] I dropped out of school. I was in the middle of the semester and I emailed my teachers and told them what happened. I did as much of my work as possible but ultimately took a year off. It was hard for me to study, focus, and even get out of bed to get to class.” She now does online classes and has started a Facebook group to bring awareness. She feels that “we need to teach people that the only thing that causes rape is rapists. It has nothing to do with what you wear, how you act, what you say, or what you do. It has everything to do with a rapist. I think our sex education courses in school need to be better and on top of that they need to have a full section over consent and what it means/is.”
She went on to speak about victims, saying “I also think our resources for victims of sexual assault should be more readily available and more realistic. Expecting someone who has been assaulted to pay hundreds out of pocket to talk to someone when they feel like they can’t go on is just sad.” She said that “just being supportive and understanding that rapists are the ones at fault is truly the best thing anyone can do.”
After these conversations, I reflected back on my own experiences. Being assaulted from an early age onto my early adult years, I can relate with both women. I had a hard time recalling the events after they happened, which made healing from them difficult. People need to understand just how much of a person’s life is affected when they are sexually assaulted. They have to heal physically, mentally, and emotionally. We should not only remember this during the month of April but need to spread awareness for it all year long--because sexual assaults happen every day.