Thursday, September 27, 2012

Breaking the silence on sexual violence

This week's blog contribution comes from Sasha Mackey, outreach advocate with Sexual Assault Support Services of Midcoast Maine.  Five Town Communities That Care strives to promote healthy youth and to reduce adolescent substance abuse, suicide, violence, delinquency, school drop-out, and teen pregnancy.  Here in the Five Towns, we are blessed to have much lower rates of overall violence in our community than many urban areas, but we are by no means violence free.  Sasha gives us a glimpse into a type of violence that most Mainers seldom talk about.

Breaking the Silence... Let’s Talk about it.

Sexual violence - what is it and who does it affect?

Sexual violence is an act of power that violates a person’s trust and feeling of safety.  This happens when someone forces or manipulates another person into any unwanted sexual activity.  Some forms of sexual violence include rape or sexual assault, child sexual assault and incest, intimate partner sexual assault, unwanted sexual contact/touching, molestation, sexual exploitation and sexual harassment. Sexual violence does not discriminate; it affects people of all genders, ages, races, religions, incomes, abilities, professions, ethnicities, and sexual orientations.

Did you know… 1 out of 5 Mainers reported being a victim of rape or attempted rape in their lifetime? (Rubin, 2007)

Chances are you know someone who has been sexually assaulted. 

A common myth that is often portrayed in our media culture, movies and TV is that of a sexual assault occurring late at night, down a dark ally by a complete stranger.  But sexual violence is not just a crime between strangers.  Survivors and offenders are often known classmates, loves ones, family members, neighbors, employers or friends.

Did you know… 11.9% of Maine high school students – 13.3% of girls, and 10.4% of boys – report having been physically forced to have sexual intercourse in their lifetime.

And 19.4% of Maine high school students – 24% of girls and 14.9% of boys – report having been the target of offensive sexual comments at school or on the way to or from school in their lifetime. (Maine Centers for Disease Control. 2010)

What you can do

These statistics are not meant to create fear, but meant only to raise awareness and break the silence that is attached to the issue of sexual violence. 

It is the responsibility of every member in the community to create safe and comfortable neighborhoods.  As parents and leaders in the community we can help by having open and honest discussions with each other and with our youth.  By talking about the issue in a safe and educational way, we get to be in charge of what message is delivered.  The statistics are proof that sexual violence does not go away if we just don’t talk about it.  We can model supportive relationships and behaviors with friends and family.  Trust your feelings, and listen to your “inner voice” if someone’s behavior feels unsafe, unwelcome or uncomfortable.  We can speak up when we hear harmful comments or witness violent acts.  And most importantly, we can stand up for survivors and believe their stories.

Did you know… Help and Support are available in your community.

Survivors of sexual violence can experience a wide range of emotions such as anger, sadness, fear, guilt, shame, doubt and the list goes on.  Some people may act differently and may be come quieter or secluded where others may act out or turn to harmful coping strategies.  If you or someone you know has felt the impact of sexual violence, support is available. 
Your community is supported by the Sexual Assault Support Services of Midcoast Maine.  If you have any questions, concerns or are looking for support, help is just a phone call away. 

Sexual Assault Support Services of Midcoast Maine
24 hour, free and confidential support line number for Eastern Cumberland, Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Knox and Waldo Counties 1-800-822-5999 or from a cell phone, 207-725-1500.

No one deserves to be sexual abused, so let’s work together to break that silence and as a community, we can all…

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