Rego: Don’t forget that April is 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. This column contains graphic content pertaining to rape and sexual assault. Please read at your own discretion.

As COVID-19 sweeps the world, other foreboding and ongoing issues seem to be pushed aside. While we should focus on surviving and supporting each other through this pandemic, let’s not forget the other issues still happening during this crisis.

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April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Every year, the Women and Gender Advocacy Center at Colorado State University does a fantastic job bringing awareness to sexual assault on our campus through their calendar of events, including workshops, hosting the Consent Turns Me On Carnival, campaigning out on The Plaza, leading the traditional Take Back The Night rally and more. Unfortunately, many people will miss the physical necessity of these events now that CSU has shut down campus.

Need private help? Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline that can be reached at any time at 1-800-656-4673 for legal advice, help or even just someone to talk to.”

This is a very interesting time in history to bring awareness to the subject. Although COVID-19 might be blinding some of us from preexisting societal problems like sexual assault, the presidential election has made waves in the United States.

Tara Reade spoke out about a sexual assault allegation against presidential candidate Joe Biden. Many aren’t taking the allegation seriously, claiming it’s merely another tactic used to scare people away from Biden, while many others stand firmly behind Reade and are going wild online claiming they cannot vote for a rapist as president. Trending hashtags on Twitter include #IBelieveTara and #TimesUpBiden.

While this will certainly shake the presidential election, it serves as a platform to deliver the reality of sexual assault; who commits it, how victims are treated for speaking out and what positions of power may or may not conclude immunity from proper justice being served.

While power can corrupt proper justice being served to many who commit such heinous crimes, there are also many who escape any form of punishment. Rape and sexual assault are largely underreported crimes. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, three out of four sexual assaults are not reported. Of the reported crimes, the vast majority of perpetrators will face no jail or prison time; out of every 1,000 sexual assaults, 995 perpetrators will walk free.

According to CSU’s 2018 crime report, 13 rape allegations were reported, with 12 being on campus. However, Fort Collins itself has many other sexual assault allegation reports. Knowing how underreported sexual assault is, the 13 confirmed reports of alleged rape on campus is likely only a small number compared to the reality.

The reality is that every 73 seconds an American is sexually assaulted. According to RAINN, one out of every six women is a victim of attempted or completed rape, and one out of every 10 men is a victim of attempted or completed rape.

College women are three times more likely to experience sexual violence than women in general, and females age 16-19 are four times more likely than the general public to become a victim of rape or sexual assault. However, we cannot let this shadow the importance of our male survivors and the validity of male victims.

Remember rams, if you see something, say something.” 

Rape is purely an act of evil selfishness. It can stem from an attempt to show power, but no matter how or why, anyone perpetrating the act of rape has no regard for the life of the person being raped. Rape and sexual assault leaves detrimental long-term damage on the victim and ruins lives.

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Victims of sexual assault can experience heightened anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. According to the McGill Journal of Medicine, about 94% of people experience symptoms of PTSD in the weeks after an assault. According to Harvard’s School of Public Health, about 30% of all PTSD cases in the U.S. are directly related to sexual violence. Further, up to 13% of women who are raped attempt suicide.

Sexual assault can be committed by someone you might already know or a complete stranger at the bar. There is no cookie-cutter image for what a rapist or perpetrator of sexual assault looks like.

If you have experienced sexual assault, know that you are not alone. I am so sorry that someone felt entitled to your body, as if it were a piece of property, and robbed your life from you; you are worth so much more. Regardless of gender, people need to come together and speak out against this violence. There is a network of people at CSU who have been through the experience and can empathize with your pain as well as many professionals to offer support.

CSU’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 at 970-492-4242 to have an anonymous and confidential one-on-one conversation. There is also a 24-hour National Sexual Assault Hotline that can be reached at any time; call 1-800-656-4673 for legal advice, help or even just someone to talk to regarding a sexual assault.

Let’s fix this problem. People are people, not property to be used whenever someone feels like using it. Being drunk doesn’t mean the sexual assault was the victim’s fault — victim-blaming is a barbaric act as well. Remember Rams, if you see something, say something. 

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