|We are women.
We are strong.
Violence against us
Has gone on too long.
|Yes means yes.
No means no.
Whatever we wear,
Wherever we go.
|What do we want?|
When do we want it?
During the month of March, individuals and organizations in Kentucky will take to the streets, use the power of the pen and their voices and in other ways join in the state’s observance of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
According to the National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center in its 2003 Rape in Kentucky: A Report to the Commonwealth, one in nine women in Kentucky – or approximately 175,000 women - has been raped at some time in her life. Nationwide, one in six women has been a victim of rape. This number does not include drug- or alcohol-facilitated rape, attempted rape, statutory rape or other forms of sexual violence, or the many estimated assaults that go unreported.
“Even though Kentucky has a lower rate of rape than the national average, sexual violence of all kinds is a serious problem we all need to be aware of and work to end.” said Marla Montell, Commissioner of the Department for Human Support Services which houses the state Division of Child Abuse and Domestic Violence Services in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS).
“During Sexual Assault Awareness Month, it’s important to focus on the impact sexual violence has on survivors and community-wide quality of life. We especially want to emphasize the message to young people that respect and consent aren’t optional or negotiable and that reporting these offenses is critical to efforts to combat rape and sexual assault,” Montell said.
Young people are at highest risk of being raped. Of those who report offenses, 29 percent of rape victims are between the ages of 12 and 17. Another 15 percent of rape victims are younger than 12. A study by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) found that 80 percent of all rape victims are younger than 30. Though most rape victims are white, there is a higher rate of rape among blacks as a percentage of the population.
Nearly six out of every 10 rapes occur in the victim’s home or at the home of a friend, neighbor or relative, according to the DOJ. In the majority of cases, the offender is someone the victim knows.
While alcohol is the intoxicant most widely used to facilitate rape, the emergence of “date rape” drugs has brought a new set of risks to victims of sexual violence. GHB, Rohypnol (Ruffies) and Ketamine (Special K) are the most commonly used drugs to facilitate rape. They can be tasteless, odorless and colorless and are often slipped into victims’ beverages. These drugs may cause severe, rapid intoxication and victims may lose consciousness for as long as 12 hours. Victims often also suffer total or partial loss of memory after effects of these drugs wear off.
“So-called date rape drugs not only create a further vulnerability risk for potential victims of rape and sexual assault, but also can suppress victims’ memories, making cases more difficult to prosecute and perhaps reducing the likelihood these crimes will be reported,” Montell said.
The Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs (KASAP), an advocacy and action coalition of the state’s 13 rape crisis centers, is a key partner with CHFS in promoting public awareness of sexual violence. Among the information KASAP is distributing during Sexual Assault Awareness Month are tips for reducing the risk of rape in relationships, on streets and campuses, in vehicles and at home. Some self-protection and risk-reduction steps KASAP recommends are:
- To reduce sexual violence in relationships, know and clearly communicate personal intimacy limits; date in groups; and avoid alcohol and other drugs.
- On streets and campuses, be aware of your surroundings; if approached while walking, cross the street or change directions; don’t walk alone; avoid parking lots and alleys and stick to well-lit routes; and, be prepared by carrying a cell phone, a keychain flashlight, whistle or pepper spray.
- Make your vehicle safer by always locking your car and never leave the keys in your car; have the keys ready when going to your vehicle; be sure your car is unoccupied before getting in; park in well-lit areas and don’t leave valuables in clear sight while driving or while your car is unoccupied; never offer or accept a ride from someone you don’t know or trust; and, if you feel you are being followed, drive to the nearest police or fire station or go to an open restaurant or business and call the police.
- Because many sexual assaults occur in victims’ homes, take special care to perform regular home inspections to make sure doors and windows are secure; keep garage doors, entrance doors and easily accessible windows shut and locked; never leave a spare house key outside or in the garage; if you lose your keys or move to another residence (new or old) change the locks; and, if you think your residence has been broken into, do not enter and call police from another location.
The Division of Child Abuse and Domestic Violence Services provides funding and administrative oversight for the state’s rape crisis center network. Montell said the network offers specialized services that can greatly minimize the emotional and psychological effects many sexual assault survivors suffer. Among services offered are:
- a 24-hour rape crisis line, 1-800-656-HOPE (4673);
- crisis counseling and support for sexual assault victims, their families and friends;
- therapy services and referrals to therapy and community resources;
- support groups for survivors of rape, sexual abuse and incest;
- information regarding law enforcement, criminal justice and medical services;
- advocacy for victims, including escorts to medical service providers, police stations and court appearances; and
- assistance with victim compensation claims.
“Perhaps the most important objective of Sexual Assault Awareness Month is to empower people, especially women and girls, with information and education to encourage them to make personal safety a priority in their lives and to help them understand their rights, including the right to say ‘no,’” Montell said.
For a schedule of events commemorating Sexual Assault Awareness Month, go to http://www.kasap.org/pdfs/SAAMCalendar2005.pdf.