Vail Daily letter: Another tough topic – sexual assault
Vail, CO, Colorado
I want to express my appreciation to Denise Kipp for her letter concerning “The Talk” that parents should be having with their kids about sexual health.
I would like to add a little information about a topic that may be even more difficult to talk about: sexual assault.
Nearly one in four women living in Colorado report being raped in their lifetime1.
When other sexual crimes are added (e.g., unwanted sexual contact and other types of coercion), that number rises to one in two women and one in four men in Colorado who have experienced sexually violent crimes in their lifetime.
In a nationally representative survey, 60 percent of female and 69 percent of male victims were first raped before age 18.2
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Some might question the need for awareness of such a topic, but there are many myths surrounding sexual assault and what kind of person commits sexual offenses.
I want to stress the importance of learning the facts about sexual violence and then talking about them with those you love.
The fact is many parents talk with their kids about “stranger danger” when most sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim (over 90 percent). And when I use the term kids here, I’m not just talking about elementary school age.
Sexual offenders are great at grooming victims of any age, looking for victims who are most vulnerable and easiest to prey upon. That may be your 21-year-old son drinking at a college party.
Alcohol is often a factor in sexual assault. But all too often, if the victim is drinking, the victim gets blamed for the assault, as seen in the recent case in Steubenville, Ohio.
That case brought a lot of media attention to a small town, partly because of the action or inaction of others who knew of or witnessed the assault.
Discussion of this case is certainly one way to have the talk about sexual assault with your teenager. What would they do in that situation? What if they saw something similar on Facebook?
There are a lot of great resources online starting with the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault at CCASA.org. They have a fact sheet on teens and sexual assault and another simple handout called “Child Sexual Abuse – What Parents Need to Know.” The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN.org) has a great website, as well as a toll free hotline (800-656-HOPE). They also have an online hotline via instant messaging.
Locally, the Bright Future Foundation has a confidential hotline, as well which can be reached at 970-949-7086.
My point is this: we have to talk about sexual assault even though it’s uncomfortable. It happens all too often and the consequences are devastating.
Pretending it could never happen to us won’t keep it from happening to us or others. It’s time to talk about sexual violence. For more information, call 970-328-8539.
Coordinator, Victim Services Unit, Eagle County Sheriff’s Office