Dear Future President,
Rape is not the only form of sexual assault. Sexual assault is ANY contact or behavior in a sexual way towards someone without consent. Molestation, or unwanted inappropriate touching, attempted rape, or any other forms of forced sexual acts are also considered sexual assault. “Forced” does not only refer to forcing the victim physically. A victim can be psychologically forced, threatened, or manipulated into non-consensual sex.
According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network), which is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, about 3 out of 4 acts of sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone who is known by the victim. Imagine walking home from a normal day at school and being followed, sexually harassed and touched inappropriately, not far from your home, a place where you’re supposed to feel the safest, by a man you thought you could trust, your neighbor and a golf buddy of your dad's. You run home and immediately tell your parents expecting look of concern over their beloved child only to see a look of disbelief. Who would believe a 7th grader over a trusted and loyal church member of many years? Then imagine the psychological effects that follow. Not understanding why someone would do it distorting into self blame. “I must have led him on, made him think that I wanted this”. Years later, the molestation, the depression, the self-doubt, has become a distant memory, but the underlying feeling still remains. More people need to be aware of what sexual assault really is and the damaging effects that can result so that our Nation can provide a better environment and support for victims to be more willing to step forward.
Sexual assault victims are often too scared to step forward, fearing being outcast, blamed, or seen as weak or damaged. They need to feel safe in their communities. We can not make this happen until more people are aware of what someone can go through, psychologically and physically, after experiencing it, such as depression, PTSD, pregnancy, STDs, suicidal thoughts, and these are only a few named by the Sexual Trauma and Assault Response Services. A greater emphasis on this topic needs to be included in sex-ed courses in every school across America. Sexual assault can happen to anyone and by anyone, even neighbors, friends, significant others, classmates, or any number of different roles. A lot of people are still unaware of what sexual assault truly means, believing it to be only rape, but even if there has been consented sexual relations in the past, it is still considered sexual assault if it’s not consensual. This lack of knowledge could be the one thing standing in the way of a young girl's psychological freedom.