Vail Daily column: Don’t just stand by
Did you know that you probably talked to someone today who has been a victim of sexual assault? Maybe it was a family member, a friend or a cashier at a convenience store. If not today, then at some point in your life, you’ve met someone that has dealt with the pain, the emotional distress and countless other long-term effects of sexual abuse. You might not know this about them; they might not ever tell you. But we know that one in two women and one in four men in Colorado have experienced sexually violent crimes in their lifetime.
You’re out, and you think you saw something. You’re not sure; maybe it was nothing. So, you simply keep walking. The next day you hear the news. Someone needed your help, but you didn’t know what to do. As a bystander, you can safely change the outcome — prevent an assault by stepping in when something doesn’t look right.
Don’t Be A Bystander
Maybe you heard someone say something sexist or degrading. Maybe you witnessed someone trying to take advantage of a friend. Studies have shown that the occurrence of rape is more extensive than reported in official statistics, and the majority of rapists are never apprehended. In a society that promotes a “mind your own business” message, speaking up might seem difficult. But it doesn’t have to be. Try to approach the situation as if it involved one of your friends. If you see something that doesn’t seem right, then it probably isn’t. If you think someone is in trouble, ask if they are OK. Be honest and direct in explaining your concerns and reasons for intervening.
If you don’t feel comfortable approaching a situation on your own, then ask — a friend, a coworker, anyone — for help. You aren’t ruining someone’s fun or being a jerk if you speak up. You are watching out for someone’s brother, sister, child or friend. Next time, it could be your loved one that needs help.
Consistency is necessary
“Yes” — one word that can mean so much in a relationship. In the heat of in intimate encounter, it may seem trivial. It may seem unnecessary. But it isn’t. It is vital to healthy sexual relationships. Consensual sex means your partner clearly said “yes” — not “maybe” and certainly not nothing. It isn’t part of a “game” if your partner says “no.” That means you don’t have consent. Healthy sex is all about the “yes.” And it isn’t that hard to ask. Healthy sex is mutually beneficial and harms no one. Practicing healthy sex means not treating people as sex objects or viewing sex as a form of power and control over another person.
Give Each other Space
Those who practice healthy sex give each other space in a relationship. They allow their partners to speak for themselves and they don’t use threats or make their partner feel guilty. In healthy relationships, partners ask for consent, and they accept a “no” when they hear one. They ask for the “yes” and they know how to recognize it.
Talk about healthy sex with your friends. With your sexual partners. Begin the conversation about what feels right in a relationship when it comes to consent and sexual boundaries. And be there for friends who might be struggling through unhealthy relationships.
You can find help by calling Bright Future Foundation’s 24/7 crisis hotline at 970-763-7203. It’s time to get involved and do what is right.
Sheri Mintz is the executive director and Casey Wolfington is clinical coordinator at the Bright Future Foundation. The Bright Future Foundation serves Eagle County by empowering individuals and families affected by domestic violence and sexual assault to lead safe, productive lives through prevention services, advocacy, crisis intervention and recovery services.