May is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month

 

Kids and teenagers are constantly bombarded by the media with inappropriate messages about how men ought to treat women. In light of this, it is of the utmost importance for men to be taught how to treat women respectfully when they are young.

For example, if the male has doubts about whether or not his female consents to sexual behavior, he is to clearly and explicitly ask his partner how she feels about proceeding. If the woman expresses any doubts whatsoever, he must refrain from further activity. Understand, furthermore, that an intoxicated woman is incapable of giving legal consent. Indeed, most sexual assaults that occur on college campuses include at least one party who has consumed alcohol.  

Talking to teens and young women about sexual assault

It is important that teens know that one does not have to engage in rape in order to have committed sexual assault. Sexual harassment involving simple groping or inappropriate touching is a form of sexual assault. 

While it is the responsibility of the man to treat women with respect, there are a few safety tips which women ought to be mindful of. First, she ought to prepare adequately for any date or party by ensuring that her cell phone is fully charged and that she has enough money to make it home if a taxi is required. It helps to have the number of a taxi in one’s cell phone.  

The woman ought to trust her intuition. If something about a situation does not feel right, it is important to stay close to friends or to simply leave the situation as soon as possible. Instinctual feelings of mistrust may arise even towards a man whom a woman has known for a long time. Even in these situations, the woman ought to trust her instincts. Just because a man does not have a track record of sexual assault does not mean that he is incapable of beginning one.  

Refusing to allow oneself to be vulnerable is very important. This involves closely attending to one’s drink in order to avoid contamination with date-rape drugs, as well as simply knowing when to stop drinking. In addition to being mindful of safe alcohol intake, refusing to be vulnerable also includes assertive attitudes and accompanying behaviors. One ought to speak firmly or even shout if one feels threatened.   

Effects and signs of sexual assault

Unfortunately, sexual assault is not always preventable, and its consequences can be devastating. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), “Sexual violence can have psychological, emotional and physical effects on a survivor.”

Depression: Depression is a mood disorder that occurs when feelings associated with sadness and hopelessness continue for long periods of time and interrupt regular thought patterns,” according to RAINN. It is normal for survivors of sexual assault to experience feelings of sadness and hopelessness, but if the feelings continue for long periods of time, it may mean that the survivor is experincing depression and should seek help from a professional. RAINN suggests learning more and finding help from the National Institute of Mental Health or the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

PTSD: Sexual assault is perhaps one of the most traumatic things an individual can experience. It is therefore no surprise that it is frequently associated with the onset of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As its name implies, this disorder occurs following an extremely terrifying experience. Individuals may experience intense and uncontrollable anxiety, flashbacks related to the event, or nightmares. These symptoms can persist for months or even years. Learn more about PTSD at the National Institute of Mental Health.

Flashbacks: According to RAINN, “A flashback is when memories of a past trauma feel as if they are taking place in the current moment. That means it’s possible to feel like the experience of sexual violence is happening all over again. During a flashback it can be difficult to connect with reality. It may even feel like the perpetrator is physically present.” It can be hard for the victim to determine or identify what is causing these flashbacks, as it can be as something as seemingly benign as a the tone of someone’s voice or smell of a cologne. To speak with someone who is trained to help, RAINN suggests calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE(4673) or chatting online at online.rainn.org. 

Self Harm: Finally, sexual assault can result in the onset of self-harm in the form of biting, burning, cutting, pulling out hair, or scratching and picking skin. Usually this is done to numb pain or feel a release. RAINN notes that “Self-injury Outreach & Support (SiOS) has valuable resources for those who self-injure, those who have recovered, and those who want to help.”

Substance Abuse: Survivors may sometimes turn to drugs, alcohol or other narcotics in order to “numb or escape the pain” resulting from sexual assault. If you feel you or someone you love may have a problem with substance abuse, RAINN advises calling the Substance Abuse Treatment Referral Helpline 1.800.662.HELP(4357) to find support, or search for a local treatment center through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Anyone who suspects that they may be suffering the symptoms of any mental illness is encouraged to seek out a psychotherapist or psychiatrist as quickly as possible. While the psychological consequences of sexual assault can be devastating, highly trained medical doctors and therapists are readily available to administer proper treatment and support. And finally, anyone who has experienced, or thinks they may have experienced, a sexual assault, ought to seek out immediate medical attention at either an emergency room or a clinic. Charges may be pressed against the offender later, but swift medical treatment is the first priority.