Protection Against Sexual Abuse

February 5, 2007 06:00 AM

The Facts About Sexual Assault 

The Victim: Sexual assault can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time.

The Suspect: The typical stereotype of a sexual assault suspect is a sex-crazed maniac or psychopath. In reality, people who sexually assault not always are strangers to their victims. In more than one third of reported cases, the rapist is an acquaintance, neighbor, friend, or relative. 

The Crime: Although sexual conduct is a component of this crime, suspects mainly want to hurt, humiliate, and degrade another human being. Regardless of the sexual nature of the crime, it is a crime of violence.

How can it happen? 
· “When the salesman knocked on the door, I let him in. He was friendly at first, then all of the sudden he grabbed me.” 
· “I was downstairs in the laundry room of our apartment building. I had been there alone many times before, but this time...” 
· “I was walking to work in broad daylight. A car stopped next to me. The driver leaned over and asked for directions. When I got close to the car, he pulled out a gun and told me to get in.” 

These simple examples show that the tragedy of sexual assault can strike anyone, anywhere, at any time. 

Reduce Your Risk 

What Should You Do To Prevent Sexual Assault? 

  • Always be aware of your surroundings. 
  • Stay in well lighted areas as much as possible. 
  • Walk confidently, directly, at a steady pace. A rapist looks for someone who appears vulnerable. 
  • Walk on the side of the street facing traffic. 
  • Walk close to the curb. Avoid doorways, bushes and alleys where rapists can hide. 
  • If you think you are being followed, walk quickly to areas where there are people and lights. If a car appears to be following you, turn and walk in the opposite direction or walk on the other side of the street. 
  • Be careful when people stop you for directions or money. Always reply from a distance and never get too close to the car. 
  • If you are in trouble or feel you are in danger, don’t be afraid to attract help anyway you can. Scream, yell, or run away to safety. 
  • Always lock your car. Keep your car locked when you are away from it to keep someone from hiding and waiting inside. When you are inside the car, lock the doors for safety. 
  • Look inside and around your car before you get in. 
  • Be aware of other people in parking areas, especially those close to your vehicle. 
  • If you think you are being followed, drive to a public place or a police station to get help. 
  • If your car breaks down, open the hood or attach a white cloth to the antenna. If someone stops to help, stay inside your locked vehicle and ask them to call the police. 
  • If you choose to carry any type of weapon for self-protection, give careful consideration to your ability and willingness to use it. Remember there is always the chance that it could be taken away and used against you. 

What Should You Do If You’re a Victim? 

Seek help immediately! If you are injured, call 9-1-1 for medical assistance or go to a hospital emergency room. Important things to remember are that you should not touch anything, change your clothes, wash, bathe, or shower until you have been to the hospital and contacted the police. Doing any of these things will destroy valuable evidence that is needed by the police and the prosecutor to identify, arrest and convict your attacker. 

The emotional impact of a sexual assault is great and both medical professionals and law enforcement officers know this. It will be difficult for you to confide in strangers about what has happened to you. Every effort is made to have family members, friends, clergy or anyone you want present to provide support during this difficult time. 

The Child Victim 

Each year thousands of children suffer some type of sexual abuse. Who is the typical offender? In more than one-third of the sexual abuse cases involving children, the offender is known to the child and its family. In other words, the abuser is often a parent, relative or close family friend. 

Because children are so trusting and defenseless, they are especially vulnerable to sexual assault. 

Children often make up stories, but they rarely lie about being a victim of sexual assault. If a child tells you about being touched or assaulted, take it seriously. Your response helps determine how the child will react to the abuse. Stay calm. Explain that you are concerned about what happened, and not angry with the child. 

Many children feel guilty as if they provoked the assault. Children need to be reassured that they are not to blame, and that they are right to tell you about what happened. 

Sometimes a child may be too frightened or confused to talk directly about the abuse. Be alert for any changes in behavior that might hint that the child has suffered a disturbing experience.

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