Are you aware of the fact that 41 sexual assault survivors have received services in our community since January of 2002? Are you also aware of the fact that the number of sexual assaults this year has already surpassed the total number of sexual assaults that occurred last year in Routt County? You may be further interested to know that most of our surrounding counties have not seen this increase in sexual assault and that the perpetrators of these Routt County crimes are for the most part local adults and adolescents!
What is sexual assault? Sexual assault may be defined as unwanted sexual contact obtained without consent and/or obtained through the use of force, intimidation or coercion. Sexual assault includes the acts of: sexist language and harassment on one end of the spectrum to stranger or acquaintance rape, and everything in between. In Colorado, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 17 men have experienced a completed or attempted sexual assault in their lifetime. In the United States in general, it's 1 of 6 women and 1 of 33 men (Sexual Assault in Colorado: Results of a 1998 Statewide Survey. 1998. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault). The United States has the world's highest rape rate of the countries that publish such statistics (NWS, "Rape in America: A Report to the Nation," 1992). Even though sexual assault involves sexuality it is primarily an act of power and control using means of force and terror. The victims are not party girls making bad choices, but those who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Besides, if a woman says "no" does it matter what the circumstances are? Surely we can agree, it doesn't matter. Sexual assault is always wrong and every time a sexual assault occurs, it brings dishonor to all men and women and pain and suffering for victims and their families.
Of the 41 victims of sexual assault in Routt County, 20 were adolescents, 13 were adults and eight were children. Among the 20 adolescents, most of them were acquaintance rape perpetrated by local male adolescents or young adults. Among the 13 adult sexual assaults, only two of them were stranger rape and the remaining were acquaintance rapes, the majority of which were perpetrated by local residents. Local residents who were close friends or family perpetrated each of the child sexual assaults. Shouldn't we be outraged about this information? Does living in a small town resort community with above-average financial resources set the stage for this reprehensible behavior? Do these perpetrators believe there are not or should not be serious consequences for perpetrating sexual assault? What is the overall impact for these adolescent and adult victims? The same goes for the child victims. What is being done to punish the perpetrators and advocate for the victims? As parents, what are we doing to create an environment of respect for females or one another in general? How, as a community, can we support victims enough so they will report their assault to law enforcement? I don't think I need to go on and on about how victims and the lives of the spouses and families close to those victims may be changed forever due to such an experience. This is not an issue that most people should be on the fence about. Sexual assault is a serious crime and more needs to be done to prevent its occurrence, punish the perpetrators and support the victims, period.
This increase in sexual violence is occurring right here in our pristine resort community. To combat this problem, we need more than our law enforcement officials and the hardworking people at Advocates Against Battering and Abuse. We need support and involvement from individuals and groups locally in Routt County. The kind of involvement could be volunteering as a direct services crisis worker, becoming a member of the board of directors or supporting the organization through educational and preventative projects or with monetary donations to increase the services offered by Advocates. There are plenty of talented, aware and hardworking people in our community that could direct some of their energy to this cause. Please consider becoming involved or getting someone you know involved in this honorable fight against sexual violence. You CAN make a difference!