The importance of sexual assault awareness

By J1 reporter Lucy Drexel

Young women are raised to be on guard at all times. Girls are encouraged to go to the bathroom in large groups, park in well-lit areas, and avoid getting gas or shopping at night. It’s common to see girls carrying pepper spray on their key chains and wearing modest clothing in public to avoid harassers. Girls even guard their drinks at parties to ensure their safety on a night out. The list of precautions goes on and on. 

Graphic by Lucy Drexel

Females aged 16 to 19 are four times more likely than the general population to fall victim to rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault. This statistic fails to include sexual harassment. 

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (E.E.O.C), sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. This may include catcalling, sexual comments, unwanted pressure for dates or sexual teasing, jokes, remarks, questions, looking someone up and down, and being asked to send explicit pictures or receiving unwanted ones. To put it simply, sexual harassment is any type of sexual activity that people do not explicitly say yes to.

A study in the U.K. found that 97% of women aged 18 to 24 have been sexually harassed. Most likely, this number is probably closer to 100% if minors, who are typically not comfortable reporting the harassment they endured, are taken into account. 

Sexual harassment is common, but that does not mean it should go unreported. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recommends keeping a record of the harassment. Write down the places, dates, times, and witnesses that were around when the act happened. If someone is harassed online, they should save screenshots, emails, and other evidence of digital interactions. 

While it can be challenging to report harassment within schools and workplaces, it can be filed as a lawsuit in a federal or state court. The incident does need to be filed as a formal sexual harassment complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission before doing this. If the harassment is happening at home, file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or call the Department of Justice.

Marian alumna Zahra Snoza-Sorensen ’00 has been working in the criminal justice system for the past 17 years. She has experience with both victims and perpetrators of sexual assault. She said, “The newer generations have become very dependent upon their cell phones. People walk down the street typing, googling and talking on their phones. This is where predators will prey on their victims.” It is important to stay aware of your surroundings when walking down the street, especially if using the phone.

Most instances of sexual assault occur on college campuses. One in five women in college will experience sexual assault. This is most likely to occur during students’ first six months on campus. 

Marian alumna Aubrey Busteed ’17 said that her first year at college was very nerve-racking. “I always made sure I went out to parties with a group of friends, and we always had a plan,” Busteed said. “We would text each other when we got to where we were supposed to be to let them know nothing had happened.”

Rape and harassment aren’t specifically female issues. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), 12 to 16% of males were raped during their college years. They are encouraged to take the same precautions as females when reporting rape, harassment or domestic violence.

Many factors take part in creating this number; one is drug and alcohol use. Of the girls on a college campus, 15% were raped under the influence of either drugs or alcohol. Using these substances can make a person unaware of their surroundings and unable to give consent. Students should always be cautious of where their drinks are left at a party, because date rape drugs are commonly used to impair a victim’s ability to fight against an assaulter. These substances have no taste or smell, but can cause someone to pass out and impair their memory. Officer Snoza-Sorensen said, “Always know where your drinks are coming from, and don’t leave your drink unattended. Do not accept a drink that you did not see being poured.” 

She recommends watching the documentary Roll Red Roll on Netflix because it shows the effects of excessive drinking and a female student repeatedly being taken advantage of.

Not only has sexual assault been on the rise, but domestic violence has, too. Its prominence has grown among students in both high school and college in recent years. It is important to know boundaries and expectations in a relationship, and if it starts to become unhealthy, the best thing to do is to leave the relationship as soon as possible. 

Officer Snoza-Sorensen has seen an increase in stalking through text, email, and social media as well as physical, emotional and psychological abuse. “It is important that you recognize these behaviors either in a current relationship or with a fellow family member or friend and ask for help,” Officer Snoza-Sorensen said.

The best thing to do when made aware of an instance of sexual harassment, assault, or domestic violence is to report it right away. The longer these crimes go unreported, the harder it is to find the perpetrators guilty. 

For more information on sexual assault, visit RAINN.org or call their hotline at 800.656.4673. RAINN is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization and leading authority on sexual violence.

If you have questions or comments leave them in the comment section or email the reporter at 22.lucy.drexel@omahamarian.org

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The Network is the student newspaper of Marian High School, Nebraska's only Class A College-Preparatory School for young women.

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