By Kelly Thyes, Door County Coordinator, Sexual Assault Center
Many people are taught when they are young to watch out for “stranger danger.” Strangers are portrayed as being dangerous, scary-looking monsters waiting behind bushes and in dark alleyways waiting to grab people and do what they want with them. This image is also what people think about when they hear “sexual assault.” Most people believe sexual assault is committed by the stranger waiting at night to find their next victim. The statistics show otherwise.
The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) was created to help sexual assault victims. RAINN has helped more than 2.4 million people since 1994. RAINN reports that 59 percent of sexual assaults are committed by an acquaintance, 34 percent are committed by family members and just 7 percent of sexual assaults were committed by strangers. Those are shocking and troubling statistics.
What can we do as parents, friends and as a community to help prevent this from happening? Education is a very important tool the Sexual Assault Center of Door County uses to spread awareness in the community. RAINN reports 1 in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys below the age of 18 experience some form of sexual abuse by an adult. These statistics show why it is so important to reach children at such young ages. Prevention Education is done in schools, after school clubs and on a one-on-one basis. Topics of conversation include accurately naming parts of the body, safe vs. unsafe touches, good vs. bad secrets, and other topics such as internet safety and respect in relationships.
Another way we can help those in our community is know the signs that someone has been assaulted. Increased alcohol and drug intake, suicidal thoughts, anxiety and depression and physical pain are just a few things people experience after being assaulted. However, many people experience different feelings and attitudes after being assaulted. If someone you know or a child wants to discuss something that happened with you, the best thing to do is to listen, remind them it is not their fault, and believe what they are telling you. This will encourage more discussion.
In Door County, there are several resources available for victims of sexual assault. The Sexual Assault Center is a free and confidential service to victims of sexual assault and their families and friends. They provide a 24/7 hotline, medical and legal support, crisis intervention, follow up assistance, and support groups.
Another community resource is the Door County Medical Center, which offers a sexual assault nurse exam program in which victims can get a full forensic exam, STD and pregnancy testing, as well as treatment for any other injuries they may have experienced.
Lastly, if child sexual abuse is suspected, reporting it to law enforcement or Door County Human Services is the best way to help that child.
April is Sexual Assault and Child Abuse awareness Month. Let’s come together as a community to prevent Sexual Assault from happening in Door County.
You can contact the Door County Sexual Assault Center by calling 920.746.8996.