Coordinated Community Response Column

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) and it makes me pause and think about all of the “unheard voices” of sexual assault. It has been said that one out of four females is sexually assaulted before she turns 18 and one out of six males is sexually assaulted before he turns 18. Look around the room, your office or gym or restaurant – one out of four females and one out of six males.

Another, even sadder fact: 71 percent of sexual assaults are never reported to law enforcement. Or in other words, that means only a quarter of people assaulted report it to law enforcement.

Breaking these numbers down even more, there are 683,000 forcible rapes every year, which equals 56,916 per month, 1,871 per day, 78 per hour, 1.3 per minute. I don’t know about you, but to me this is a sad and scary thought.

So what is sexual assault? Sexual assault is “forced, threatened, unwanted or illegal sexual activity.” It is simply a crime to force someone to have sex with you.

Wisconsin law states: “a person cannot consent to sexual contact until the age of 16,” and “a person cannot consent to sexual intercourse until the age 18.”

A few more facts:

• 93 percent of victims know the person who assaulted them;

• 61 percent of forceful sex or intercourse happens at parties;

• 75 percent of males and 55 percent of females involved in acquaintance rapes reported using drugs or alcohol;

• alcohol is the number one date rape drug.

Wisconsin law also states that having sexual intercourse or sexual contact with a person who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs and is unable to give consent is sexual assault.

As the trends of the texting, Facebook and technology evolve it is important to know and understand that “sexting” is also covered under Wisconsin state law. It states, “Sexting refers to sending sexually suggestive nude photos by cell phone or other device.”

Sexting is sending or receiving nude photographs and is considered possession or distribution of pornography and it is illegal for anyone under the age of 18.

So on the flip side, what defines a perpetrator? That’s a great question. A perpetrator is anyone who has ever, “forced, threatened, bribed, pressured or manipulated someone into having sexual contact or intercourse.”

Consequences for committing sexual assault are: a felony conviction; registered as a sex offender; prison and/or jail time; loss of family or friends; and paying restitution.

Victims of sexual assault often feel bitterness, pain, sadness, trauma, shame, anger and loneliness. Victims often blame themselves, and feel shame and guilt about what has happened. They often feel depressed and sexually act out.

What can you do? What if you are a victim of sexual assault or know of someone who has been assaulted. Listen to them, don’t judge them and encourage them to get help.

Family Services of Northeast Wisconsin Inc. is a nonprofit, human services agency that strives to protect, heal and care for the children and families of Northeast Wisconsin. Our Door County office is located at 57 N. 12th Ave, Sturgeon Bay. Our daytime phone number is 920.559.7511 and the 24-hour crises number is 920.746.8996.

Don’t let another victim’s voice go unheard.

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.