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Help is available for victims of sexual assault

Angel Carpenter

Blue Mountain Eagle

Published on April 29, 2016 2:10PM

Deputy District Attorney Matt Ipson and victim assistance program director Andrea Officer are available at the Grant County Courthouse in Canyon City to offer assistance, answer questions and provide resources.

The Eagle/Angel Carpenter

Deputy District Attorney Matt Ipson and victim assistance program director Andrea Officer are available at the Grant County Courthouse in Canyon City to offer assistance, answer questions and provide resources.

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Sexual assaults occur even in rural areas, but people can help the victims and reduce the prevalence.

Grant County Deputy District Attorney Matt Ipson said these cases do occur here.

“Grant County is not immune from this sort of behavior and crime,” he said.

Ipson and about 70 others participated in a candlelight vigil April 8 in John Day to raise awareness during Sexual Assault Awareness Month and National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Andrea Officer, director of the district attorney’s office’s victim assistance program, said awareness is important.

“I think the more we can have a dialogue about sexual assault the better, so people are more comfortable addressing it and helping people who are in a dangerous situation — giving that support is so important,” she said.

Officer said they have resources at their office for victims of sexual assault and can answer questions, whether a victim chooses to report a crime or not. They have victim information packets (also available from police officers at their offices) and a library of books available for checkout.

She said victims who’ve experienced a sexual assault can go to the hospital for a rape kit and to receive medical attention — and it is kept confidential. She added a friend or family member can accompany the victim for moral support if the victim would rather not speak to an advocate at that time.

Officer said families can help by being positive role models and showing “respect and kindness, not violence.”

She said it’s important as a community to reverse the “rape culture” that exists, such as blaming the victim instead of the attacker, trivializing sexual assault and tolerating sexual harassment.

Officer said 99 percent of people who report sexual assault are telling the truth, and it is often difficult for them to bring it forward.

“Very seldom is it a stranger,” she said. “It is usually a familiar person, someone who is known to the victim.

“It’s important to know that regardless of what happens in a sexual assault, they can heal from it. They may feel ruined, but they can heal from this and there are supports to assist in that, and they can become stronger.”

For more information, call Officer at 541-575-4026.

Heart of Grant County is another resource available.

Executive director Shelly Whale said she and the other staff at Heart are there to offer support, and, if needed, help their clients make a safety plan.

Safety plans can include emergency safe housing, transportation to a nearby shelter, and, under certain circumstances, they can provide personal emergency items.

“Sexual assault is one of the highest unreported crimes that exists, and of the cases that do get reported and actually go to court, only approximately 5 percent get convicted,” Whale said.

She said, if someone does report a sexual assault, it is important to listen and believe them.

“At Heart of Grant County, we absolutely love to be there and offer inspiration, support and encouragement,” she said. “We want to encourage them that we’ll be there. To navigate through the system is daunting — it’s a very exhausting thing after already having dealt with a crime. We listen and believe and offer encouragement the whole way.”

For more information, call Heart of Grant County at 541-575-4335. Their hotline number is 541-620-1342.

What is Rape Culture?

Rape Culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture. Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety.

Examples of Rape Culture

• Blaming the victim (“She asked for it!”)

• Trivializing sexual assault (“Boys will be boys!”)

• Sexually explicit jokes

• Tolerance of sexual harassment

• Inflating false rape report statistics

• Publicly scrutinizing a victim’s dress, mental state, motives, and history

• Gratuitous gendered violence in movies and television

• Defining “manhood” as dominant and sexually aggressive

• Defining “womanhood” as submissive and sexually passive

• Pressure on men to “score”

• Pressure on women to not appear “cold”

• Assuming only promiscuous women get raped

• Assuming that men don’t get raped or that only “weak” men get raped

• Refusing to take rape accusations seriously

• Teaching women to avoid getting raped

Victim Blaming

One reason people blame a victim is to distance themselves from an unpleasant occurrence and thereby confirm their own invulnerability to the risk. By labeling or accusing the victim, others can see the victim as different from themselves. People reassure themselves by thinking, “Because I am not like her, because I do not do that, this would never happen to me.” We need to help people understand that this is not a helpful reaction.

Why Is It Dangerous?

Victim-blaming attitudes marginalize the victim/survivor and make it harder to come forward and report the abuse. If the survivor knows that you or society blames her for the abuse, s/he will not feel safe or comfortable coming forward and talking to you.

Victim-blaming attitudes also reinforce what the abuser has been saying all along; that it is the victim’s fault this is happening. It is NOT the victim’s fault or responsibility to fix the situation; it is the abuser’s choice. By engaging in victim-blaming attitudes, society allows the abuser to perpetrate relationship abuse or sexual assault while avoiding accountability for his/her actions.

Sexual Assault Facts

FACT: Men, women and children of all ages, races, religions, and economic classes can be and have been victims of sexual assault. Sexual assault occurs in rural areas, small towns and larger cities. It is estimated that one in three girls and one six boys will be sexually assaulted by the age of eighteen. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, a rape or attempted rape occurs every 5 minutes in the United States.

FACT: Sexual assault is NEVER the victim’s fault. Sexual assault is a violent attack on an individual, not a spontaneous crime of sexual passion. For a victim, it is a humiliating and degrading act. No one “asks” for or deserves this type of attack.

FACT: Most sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows. Studies show that approximately 80%-90% of women reporting sexual assaults knew their assailant.

FACT: A sexual assault can happen anywhere and at any time. The majority of assaults occur in places ordinarily thought to be safe, such as homes, cars and offices.

FACT: Reported sexual assaults are true, with very few exceptions. According to CONNSACS, only 2% of reported rapes are false. This is the same rate of false reporting as other major crime reports.

FACT: Men can be, and are, sexually assaulted. Current statistics indicate that one in six men are sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Sexual assault of men is thought to be greatly under-reported.

FACT: Almost all sexual assaults occur between members of the same race. Interracial rape is not common, but it does occur.

FACT: Sexual assault is motivated by hostility, power and control. Sexual assaults are not motivated by sexual desire. Unlike animals, humans are capable of controlling how they choose to act on or express sexual urges.

FACT: Sexual offenders come from all educational, occupational, racial and cultural backgrounds. They are “ordinary” and “normal” individuals who sexually assault victims to assert power and control over them and inflict violence, humiliation and degradation.

FACT: Anytime someone is forced to have sex against their will, they have been sexually assaulted, regardless of whether or not they fought back or said “no”. There are many reasons why a victim might not physically fight their attacker including shock, fear, threats or the size and strength of the attacker.

FACT: Survivors exhibit a spectrum of emotional responses to assault: calm, hysteria, laughter, anger, apathy, shock. Each survivor copes with the trauma of the assault in a different way.


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