No means no!
April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, so I thought it timely to relate the following true story about a woman who was raped when she was 16: “When I was a teenager, I went out on a date with a guy I knew from school. We went to the movies and afterwards, he wanted to go for a ride. There was still time before I was supposed to be home, so I agreed.”He drove into the country, singing with the radio. He pulled a beer out from under the car seat and started drinking it. He offered it to me. I said, ‘No thanks.’ I was sort of surprised, but didn’t want to make a big deal of it. Suddenly he turned down a small dirt road and stopped. He turned to me and pulled me over to him. I didn’t know what to say and he acted like it didn’t matter anyway. I tried to pull away from him, but he wouldn’t let me. Then I got scared and said, ‘What are you doing?’He said, ‘What do you think I’m doing? You wouldn’t have come here with me if you didn’t want it.’I started for the car door but he grabbed my arm so tightly it really hurt. I was afraid he would hurt me even more if I didn’t do what he said. He raped me and then drove me home.I didn’t tell anyone because I was too ashamed. My parents had told me not to talk to strangers and to never let a guy take advantage of me. Nobody had told me it was rape if you knew the guy, so I tried to forget about it.”That scenario could have taken place last night or over this past weekend to any young woman who is dating or seeing people socially. It could have happened to your teenage daughter, sister, next-door neighbor, babysitter or the young counter girl at McDonald’s.But this event took place 20 years ago, and the woman relating the incident now has a teenage daughter of her own. She can’t tell her teen not to date, but she can dispel the notion that “it’s not rape if you know the guy.” It is rape whether it’s a date, friend, acquaintance, lover, neighbor or even a partner who forces another person into a sexual act against her (or his) will.If we are ever to end the cycle of sexual assault, we must first understand some of the myths society holds about this horrific crime. Myth: Most sexual assault victims were really asking for it, and the assault was provoked by the victim.Fact: Yeah, right! To say that someone wants to be raped is akin to believing people wanted to be mugged or beaten. Rape is not a spontaneous crime of sexual passion. It is a violent attack on an individual meant to defile, degrade and destroy a victim’s will and control over her own body. Frequently, it’s at least partially planned. Studies indicate the most widespread fear rape survivors experienced was the fear of death, making rape as traumatic as attempted murder. Women who have been raped lose trust in the world around them, often leaving the individual with a disquieting sense of anxiety and apprehension for the remainder of their lives. Myth: Women who submit during sexual assault have not been forcibly raped.Fact: Nonsense! Victims often submit without struggle due to fear of physical violence. Many mugging victims willingly hand over their wallets to preserve their safety.Myth: Most women are raped by strangers.Fact: Hardly. Only 22 percent of rape victims were assaulted by someone they had never seen before; 29 percent percent were raped by friends or neighbors; 27 percent by relatives, including fathers and stepfathers; 10 percent by boyfriends or ex-boyfriends; and 9 percent by husbands or ex-husbands. Myth: Most sexual assaults involve black or Latino men raping white women.Fact: 93 percent of sexual assaults occur within the same race. It’s more comfortable for society to believe attackers are usually minority men. Statistics reveal that many attackers are professionals whom the community trusts – like doctors, lawyers, police officers or other authority figures. Because of their social and financial positions, these actions are seldom reported or publicized.Myth: Sexual assault only occurs in large cities.Fact: Victims in small towns or rural areas have additional concerns to ones that all victims face. In a small town, the victim will not have the anonymity she might have in a large city, thus reducing the probability of the crime being reported.Rape knows no demographic boundaries, and it’s impossible to address every aspect of this crime here, so I thought I would focus on teenagers.Teens are simply too inexperienced to understand the nature of sexuality, male-female relationships, love and intimacy. But as parents, we have a responsibility to our kids, ourselves and our community to make certain that they understand two very basic concepts:n Young men MUST be taught that no means NO! If a young man is unsure of what a woman means, he needs to learn to ask in a non-threatening manner.n At the same time, young women must learn to say no, AND SOUND LIKE THEY MEAN NO! Young women must be taught how to communicate exactly what they want or don’t want. (It would also be beneficial if more young women learned basic self-defense tactics.)The aforementioned concepts are not a be-all-end-all solution to the problem. But they are a good place to start!Butch Mazzuca, a local Realtor and ski instructor, writes a weekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Vail, California