It's up to all of us

Heather Bryant / Editor-in -Chief
Oct. 11, 2011

In the past few weeks, women have reported multiple cases of sexual assault and domestic violence at UAF. The victims in these cases aren’t nameless statistics. They’re your classmates or your friends. They are people you know or have seen around campus.

In each of the sexual assault cases, the women knew the men and alcohol was a factor, according to UAF Police Chief Sean McGee.

“Through TV and movies people see the rapist as the boogeyman who’s hiding in the shadows waiting to jump out,” McGee said. In reality, “the guys that are doing this are people the girls know.” The perpetrators “are using alcohol as a tool to get what they want.”

According to statistics from RAINN, the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network, most rapists are known to the victims, who on that account may fail to realize they may be in danger.

Many women experience guilt and shame after assaults. Police and counselors say that if alcohol was involved or if the victim knew the perpetrator, it’s less likely she will speak out. But it’s not just guilt and shame.  “The idea of not wanting to get someone in trouble is a mentality we need to get past,” said Laura McCullough, director of Residence Life.

Last year three women reported sexual assaults at UAF. McGee suspects the actual number of victims is much higher because most victims don’t report the crimes.

“Don’t keep it a secret, talk to someone,” said Sharon Hollensbe, associate director for counseling services at UAF. Rape “happens more than we know, because people keep quiet.”

The counseling center on campus is part of UAF’s response when a student reports a sexual assault. The Sexual Assault Response Team also includes doctors, residence life officials and police. The team aims to help a student cope with what has happened.

When I was talking to a friend about writing this column, I told him that I wished I could address men directly, wished there was some way to get the point across that sexual assault is never okay, no woman ever asks for it, there are no circumstances in which it can be excused.

His response is that no guy would read it and if he did he wouldn’t want to pay attention because I wrote it and I’m a woman.

That mentality is part of the problem. Violence against women isn’t just a women’s issue. Women can’t fix it alone. It has to be something both men and women stand against. Whether you realize it or not guys, you have something at stake here, too. If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual assault or domestic violence, don’t be silent.

Even if my male friend was right and few of you men have read this far, let me say this to the women: If you have sex with someone against your will, even if you were drunk, get help. If someone touches you sexually without your permission, get help. Even if you said yes at first and changed your mind, no still means no, and no one has the right to force you.

It doesn’t matter how you are dressed. It doesn’t matter how much you’ve had to drink. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had a previous relationship with the person. Speak to someone. You don’t have to deal with this on your own.

There are resources on campus to help you get through this. It’s not your fault and you are not to blame. Put the blame where it belongs, on the person who harmed you.

Heather Bryant

Editor-in-Chief
The Sun Star

(907) 474-5078
editor@uafsunstar.com
www.uafsunstar.com

Resources:

  • UAF Police Department: 474-7721
  • UAF Center for Health and Counseling: 474-7043
  • UAF Women’s Center: 474-6360
  • Standing Together Against Rape statewide crisis line: 1-800-748-8999
  • Interior Alaska Center for Non-Violent Living hotline: 1-907-452-2293 or 1-800-478-7273
  • www.rainn.org
  • www.chooserespect.alaska.gov

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