Every 98 seconds someone in America is sexually assaulted. Such trauma is experienced by people from all walks of life: women, children, and men; college students; military personnel; people living in cities, suburbs, and rural areas. Anyone can become a victim of this crime.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Shining a light onto this dark issue is paramount to keeping people safe and to giving victims a voice. This year’s theme is “Use Your Voice to Change the Culture.” Many people are doing that. Over the course of the past weeks and months, women who have been assaulted here in Casper have spoken up, shining a light into that darkness, making the community aware of the trauma they have suffered and the prevalence of rape (including drug-facilitated sexual assault) in our community.
Affects from Sexual Assault
Sexual assault is a crime that affects people for years. Victims of sexual assault often experience short-term emotions including guilt, shame, fear, numbness, shock and feelings of isolation. Those individuals may also experience long-term health risks and behaviors in addition to pregnancy and STDs, including eating disorders, depression, and PTSD.
According to the organization RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), 90 percent of sexual assault victims are women, and 55% of the crimes are committed in or near the victim’s home. The prevalence of drugs such as Rohypnol and Ketamine, which are oftentimes slipped into a person’s drink, makes sexual assault even more compelling to perpetrators… and often a victim doesn’t realize what has happened until days, weeks, even months later. The emergence of an STD (sexually transmitted disease) and/or pregnancy might be the only clue to a rape that transpired when the individual was drugged.
Awareness and prevention are keys. Taking precautions can help you stay safe:
- don’t accept drinks from people you don’t know or trust;
- don’t leave your drink unattended (and get a new one if you have);
- avoid isolated areas when you walk;
- walk with purpose and confidence, and
- avoid the use of music headphones in both ears, especially when walking or running alone.
RAINN offers more tips, including online safety information; visit their website at https://www.rainn.org/safety-prevention
What To Do If You’re Sexually Assaulted
If you know someone who has been raped, the primary key is to be there for them. Listen to what they share, encourage them to speak to authorities, and believe them. If you are the person to whom this crime has happened, don’t walk the journey alone. Seek medical help immediately. You aren’t required to report the crime if you’re 18 and older, and that decision can be made later. However some types of evidence is time-sensitive and therefore needs to be collected right away. Taking that step will allow you to still have the choice to report the crime and file charges as a later date. Plus, seeking medical help is a part of taking care of yourself first, both physically and emotionally. After getting medical treatment (there are specially-trained SANE nurses on staff at Wyoming Medical Center and other hospitals), confide in a caring, compassionate person whom you trust. Casper’s Self Help Center provides advocates who will listen and who can advise you of your options and provide you with additional resources you might need.
True Care Women’s Resource Center provides free pregnancy testing, STD testing and treatment, and limited obstetrical ultrasound for women who have a positive pregnancy test. We see a few rape cases a year. A woman may even find out she was sexually assaulted because of the ultrasound – the pregnancy dating brings a recollection of a party she attended around the time the baby was conceived. Such news is shocking. We refer all sexual assault patients to the Self Help Center for counseling and advocacy and we offer pamphlets and booklets regarding a rape victim’s rights. Having not only a pregnancy advocate at True Care but a victim’s advocate through the Self Help Center or through the local law enforcement agency gives a rape victim a compassionate shoulder and a voice.
Organizations throughout the state and nation are available to help those who have been sexually assaulted. Don’t keep silent – speak up for yourself and others who have gone through this trauma. Join community endeavors to shine a light on this crime. And, if you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted in Natrona County, contact the Self Help Center at 235-2814. If you suspect you’re pregnant from a rape, contact True Care’s Scheduling Line at 215-9684 for your free appointment.