Rego: It’s sad, but we need Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Shay Rego

Editor’s Note: The views expressed in the following column are those of the writer only and do not necessarily represent the views of The Collegian or its editorial board. Trigger warning: This column contains graphic content pertaining to rape and sexual assault. Please read at your own discretion.

Disbelief. Fear. Pain. That’s the world I lived in for years after my rape. I now live with post-traumatic stress disorder as nightmarish memories replay themselves as I walk about my daily routine. Sleep is no reprieve from these thoughts either. I harbor feelings of weakness and questioned what I did to deserve this.

Ad

I tried to run from it, ignoring that this was now a part of me. It only made things worse. Until the day I die, this pain will always haunt me. My rapist selfishly took my life from me. He didn’t care about me, he cared about using me.

I now know I am not a victim, but a survivor.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. While society claims it does its best to bring awareness to and end sexual assault, it’s not enough. While this topic should be covered daily, for April, 50 Shades of Shay is delving into the reality of sexual assault,  from personal experiences to the taboo and shrouded sub-topics.

Most sexual assaults occur during our time in college, predominantly in younger age groups. It’s important to become educated on topics relating to sexual assault, such as rape culture, triggers, consent and ways we can prevent rape.

First, it’s important to have a basic understanding of sexual assault and some statistics relating to it.

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, there are about 321,500 victims of rape and sexual assault every year in the United States. Every two minutes, someone becomes a victim of sexual assault. Younger people, ages 18-34, are at higher risk of becoming victims of sexual assault.

One out of six women and one out of 10 men have been victim to attempted or completed sexual assault. Men in college are five times more at risk to be victims of sexual assault than men not in college. Most rapes are not even done by strangers, it is usually someone already known.

Although the particulars vary from state to state, rape and sexual assault are no longer divided terms under Colorado law. Colorado law defines sexual assault as “knowingly sexually penetrating or sexually intruding upon a victim.” There are varying degrees by which this can be done, all of which are detailed under Colorado Revised Statutes Sections 18-3-402: Sexual Assault.

Under Colorado law, the minimum penalty for catching a sexual assault charge is a class one misdemeanor charge with jail time ranging from six months to two years and a fine of $500 to $5,000. The maximum is a class four felony charge with four to 12 years in prison along with a $2,000 to $500,000 fine and three years mandatory parole. Every outcome depends on varying factors directly correlated to the conditions on how the sexual assault occurred.

Colorado State University’s 2017 crime report showed a reported 14 rapes on campus property, 13 rapes in the residence dorms and one rape on non-campus property. However, this is an inaccurate representation of how many students are truly affected by sexual assault.

Ad

To talk to a support specialist, call CSU’s Victim Assistance Team Hotline (970) 492-4242

Rapes are largely underreported. As of 2018, there are 33,413 total undergraduate students on campus. It’s estimated that three out of four rapes never get reported. To believe the report that there were only 14 rapes on-campus out of 33,413 existing students is entirely unrealistic.

Sexual assault goes deeper than just some statistics from a website. It comes down to truly understanding the long-term mental effects some of us suffer through after a rape.

Victims of sexual assault usually experience long-term effects following the event such as higher risks of anxiety, depression and PTSD as surveys done by RAINN suggest. Ninety-four percent of people that are raped experience PTSD immediately following the event and 30% continue to have PTSD months later. Thirty-three percent of people raped commit suicide and 13% attempt suicide.

The psychological processing that sequences a rape is incomprehensible and unexplainable. Some people don’t seem to understand that, some people can’t seem to express empathy without understanding. Here’s a tip: stop trying to understand it. All anyone ever asks for is support.

Society tries to hide the reality of rape because it’s a taboo that paints people as vile beings. We survivors shall be silenced no more. Our truth deserves to be heard so that all may realize this reality.

Colorado State University’s Women and Gender Advocacy Center is a great resource on-campus if you or a loved one needs help. To talk to a support specialist, call their Victim Assistance Team Hotline (970) 492-4242 to have an anonymous and confidential one-on-one conversation.

Shay Rego can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter at @shay_rego.