By Maddy Swims – [email protected] – Contributor | Feb. 4, 2014 |
Asheville women are speaking up amid new Bureau of Justice statistics showing higher risks of sexual assault for college-age females.
“Awareness is an extremely important component in ending sexual violence,” said Dearing Davis, a counselor at the local sexual assault crisis intervention agency Our Voice. “As a community we need to speak out against sexual violence.”
Davis said prevention and education continue to be major parts of what she and her team strive to accomplish at Our Voice.
“We believe that healing can occur with support. Many survivors have wonderful support systems and we encourage individuals to utilize those,” Davis said.
According to UNC Asheville’s 2013 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report listed a total of three rapes on campus in 2013.
“Although UNCA has always felt like a safe space for me,” said 20-year-old UNC Asheville transfer student Rachel Dunkel, “it is crucial to remember that that is not the case for all peoples on all campuses and raising awareness on the pervasive issue of rape culture is the first step to changing the statistic.”
Janie Warstler, co-leader of student-run organization Speak-Up, said she advocates using a buddy system to keep each other safe. She emphasizes clear communication among friends by using language like, “I want to leave at this time and I do or don’t want to have sex with this person. Please stop me at four drinks.”
“Becoming educated allows for both a better understanding of the daily lives of survivors, how to best support them, and how not to,” Warstler said. “Education also promotes the possibility for things such as bystander intervention.”
According to Bureau of Justice findings, about 20 percent of sexual assault victims list a fear of reprisal or belief that their assault wasn’t important enough as a reason for not reporting assaults to authorities.
“There are many reasons why individuals who have been assaulted are hesitant to report. We respect an individual’s right to report or not report as they wish,” Davis said. “We do not pressure individuals to report to law enforcement what has happened to them, however, we will inquire about their level of safety.”
Warstler says it is surprising that there have not been a lot of sexual assaults reported at UNCA.
“An extremely low number of assaults are reported,” Warstler said. “Furthermore, male and LGBTQ+ survivors have an even lower reporting rate than (male-on) female survivors.”
“Society’s tendency to lessen the value of a woman’s body through objectification in advertising and in popular culture could lead to victims believing that their assault isn’t important enough to report,” Dunkel said. “Sexual assault victims are often afraid to report crimes committed against them because of the tendency for legal systems and society at large to victim blame.”
According to findings by the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, four out of five rape victims suffer from subsequent chronic physical or psychological conditions, and rape victims are 13 times more likely to attempt suicide.
“Post-assault care is one of the most incredibly important things one can take advantage of,” Warstler said. “Whether it is immediately following an assault and getting medical care, or years later and pursuing therapy and mental health care, it is extremely important.”
Warstler said there are many post-assault crisis resources in Asheville and highlighted Our Voice.
“It can be very beneficial for survivors to receive counseling and psychoeducation from a trained professional.” Davis said. “We offer that support through court advocacy, counseling, and case management.”