Coordinated Community Response Column

When you hear the words “sexual assault” what is the first thing that comes to mind? Perhaps it is a stranger attacking a woman late at night, but sexual assault usually happens between two people who know each other and it does not discriminate. Sexual assault can happen to anyone, anywhere. It is not limited by ethnicity or socioeconomic status, race, gender, age or religion. Sexual assault is not just about rape; it involves any sexual contact that is forced, threatened, unwanted or illegal.

Sexual assault can include direct, physical contact such as forced touching of sexual body parts, or non-physical activity, including sexual harassment, sexting, exhibitionism, voyeurism, or taking/sharing nude photos of anyone under the age of 18. In Wisconsin, having sexual contact with someone under the influence of alcohol or drugs and unable to give consent is also sexual assault.

It is important to remember that sexual assault is an act of violence. It’s not about sex as much as it is about power and control. Sometimes sexual assault is about the perpetrator finding an opportunity, but many times the perpetrator chooses a victim and sometimes will groom them over the course of weeks or months testing boundaries, gauging how their victim will react. This is especially true with child victims.

Through public education and improvements in the law more victims are coming forward but the majority still do not report their assault. The reasons for this vary but oftentimes it is because of embarrassment, shame, guilt, fear of not being believed, fear of being blamed for the perpetrator’s actions, or fear about what will happen to the perpetrator if it is a relative or acquaintance. The victim tends to believe that he or she is the perpetrator’s only victim, but that is rarely true.

The most effective way to hold perpetrators accountable and protect the community from further sexual violence is to report. And the most important part of the healing process is to talk about the trauma.

Fortunately in Door County there is help for victims of sexual assault. The Door County Sexual Assault Center is available to offer support and resources to victims and their families. They offer legal and medical advocacy as well as crisis intervention, emotional support, information, and referral to other community resources if needed. Services are free of charge and support is available 24/7 to anyone who is a victim of sexual assault, whether you choose to report or not.

If you suspect a child or someone you care about has been sexually assaulted or if you have been assaulted, contact the Door County Sexual Assault Center at 920.746.8996 to receive information, support and advocacy.

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.