By Saeri Plagmann, Clarion Staff
Kennedy High School’s Endeavor Club sponsored their first Sexual Assault Awareness Event on May 10th in the Little Theatre. Assemblymember Jim Cooper from District 9, Ellen Yin-Wycoff from Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and Michelle Huey from Sacramento State University and My Sister’s House served as spokespersons, discussing what many consider a sensitive yet paramount topic.
The event began with Cooper addressing the near capcity crowd by citing Assembly Bill 1744, which states that “the Office of Emergency Services [must] establish a protocol for the examination and treatment of victims of sexual assault and attempted sexual assault, including child molestation, and the collection and preservation of related evidence.” As a direct correlation to the Sexual Assault Forensic Medical Kit (an examination of DNA taken from a victim to identify the attacker), immediate victims of sexual assault are now guaranteed to receive the care they need.
According to Cooper, previously an Elk Grove city council member and a Sacramento County sheriff’s deputy, the examination is not required for victims; a crime report is also not mandated to be filed for the examination to be taken. Benefits of the exam are its’ no-cost policy, the preservation of evidence for later reporting, the increased likelihood of persecution, and the treatment and care of personal health.
“DNA is very important,” Cooper says to Kennedy students. It can be collected from the victim’s body, clothes, and hair, making it important to refrain from activities that could damage potential evidence. Such activities include bathing, using the restroom, or brushing hair. Because of the access to advanced technology, Cooper admits that cold cases have lessened. Fox 40 News had even revealed a 40-year-old cold case in Sacramento that was recently resolved.
As the father of four daughters, Cooper accentuates the importance of being cautious when intoxicated or walking out alone. Sacramento, which had a 60% increase in rape crimes from 2014 to 2015, still remains unsafe for teenagers and local residents. Cooper goes on to remind students that the Sacramento East Area rapist (known to have over 20 rape cases) is not yet found and that it is essential to “watch your drink being made in front of you [at bars]” and to “walk in groups of more than two.”
When asked why teenagers should know what to do during an assault, Kennedy’s English teacher and advisor of the Endeavor Club, Brian Gleason, says, “I think it’s important because stakes are high for young men and women to find themselves in situations they didn’t plan on, and the more informed they are- the better equipped they are, to handle those situations well and without incident.”
Sexual assault on college campuses, which is more prevalent than any other crimes, was discussed by Yin-Wycoff and Huey during the second half of the event. According to the statistics from The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), there are two sexual assaults for every robbery. One of the primary and long-lasting issues that women face after an assault, as stated by Yin-Wycoff, is the damage that is done mentally rather than physically.
Survivors of sexual assault suffer from the stigma of sexual violence. They question if the assault happened because of something they had done, and in most cases, the assault was committed by someone they know which results in a “he said/she said” case. The society also makes it difficult for survivors to heal and move on; they are labeled as the ‘accuser’ by the media and are misunderstood with the belief that the only way to recover is by reporting it.
Preventing sexual assault from happening essentially comes down to affirmative consent. Huey states that good communication involves a person to willingly say “yes” while being able to say “no” or “stop” at any point. The act cannot be forced or threatened upon in any way. Bystanders also have a major role in preventing sexual assault; safe intervention or getting help are essential factors that can make a difference. It is also important to note, as Huey claims, to not be judgemental of the survivor. Victims are fragile people and are in need of support rather than criticism.
Kennedy senior Alexa Mark has been interning with the Practical Politics Internship Program that was offered at the school. As the host of the event, she says “Sexual Assault affects everyone, regardless of gender or age. This topic hits home for me because I have aunts and uncles whose stepfathers sexually assaulted them when they were children.” After describing her situation of being told to stay away from certain family members as a child, Mark says, “For a lot of us, whether or not we’re going to college it’s something that we need to be aware of….Hopefully people will start feeling more comfortable talking about this subject and can work up the courage to stop a situation.”
Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. Survivors are strongly encouraged to contact 24-hour organizations such as the National SA hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or My Sister’s House at 916-428-3271