Recently, I was given the opportunity to present to a high school class about the myths and facts of sexual violence that are most commonly believed in today’s society. My initial reaction was that standing at the front of a group of roughly a few dozen high school students discussing the truths and misconceptions of sexual assault is not going to be an easy task. I knew the presentation would be uncomfortable and a tad awkward at first, but I had high hopes those feelings would slowly dissolve as the discussion went on.
Fortunately, my assumptions were rather correct. The moment I introduced myself and explained the purpose of my presentation and why I was there, a strong feeling of uneasiness and a large cloud of restlessness immediately formed in the room. But as our discussion went on debunking the inaccuracies surrounding sexual violence, the more engaged the group of high school students became. In fact, at the end of the presentation there were a lot of really insightful and thirsty questions asked by the group. My experience that day reaffirmed a lot regarding the general attitude most of us take towards the issues of sexual violence. The most valuable impression I was left with after that day was how hungry these students were for the truth about sexual violence. I wanted to share this experience because a lot of us feel the same way when it comes to talking about sexual violence.
The topic of sexual assault can be a rather difficult and uneasy one to talk about. Almost similar to the ill at ease “Birds and Bees talk” between a parent and child. Identifying sexual violence as a challenge in our community is not something we typically like to admit. However, despite the level of difficulty and/or uncomfortable feeling the topic of sexual assault might bring each and every one of us, as a community we must choose to shed more light on the issue of sexual assault. It is our collective responsibility to break down the institutional and societal pressures that continue to prevent victims from reporting their assaults.
Our community in a way is a large classroom – the more we as a community accept and discuss the reality that sexual assault does exist here, the less uncomfortable we will feel. Most importantly, the more comfortable we become in accepting the reality that sexual assault does exist, the closer we will allow the community to become Victim Centered.
If you would like to learn more about helping sexual assault victims and their families and ways to get involved, call the Door County Sexual Assault Center at 920.559.7511.
This article is brought to you in part by the Door County Coordinated Community Response (CCR) to Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Teams and the Door County Elder and Adult-at-Risk Interdisciplinary Team.