April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), a person in the U.S. is sexually assaulted every 73 seconds.
As Sexual Assault Awareness Month, April is a time to focus on sexual assault as a widespread issue that continues to plague our culture.
Sexual assault takes on many forms; it is not just rape. It can include inappropriate touching or remarks, unsolicited pictures and even unwanted pursuit when no physical contact has been made. In the United States, 1 out of every 6 women and 1 out of every 33 men have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.
In South Carolina, there is no statute of limitations for crimes involving sexual misconduct (RAINN). Criminal sexual conduct in the first degree is considered a felony and punishable to up to 30 years in prison. It involves a perpetrator engaging in sexual battery with the victim and if aggravated force was used, and if:
The actor used aggravated force to accomplish sexual battery;
The victim submits to sexual battery by the actor under circumstances where the victim is also the victim of forcible confinement, kidnapping, trafficking in persons, robbery, extortion, burglary, housebreaking, or any other similar offense or act; or
The actor causes the victim, without the victim’s consent, to become mentally incapacitated or physically helpless by administering, distributing, dispensing, delivering, or causing to be administered, distributed, dispensed, or delivered a controlled substance, a controlled substance analogue, or any intoxicating substance.
Second degree criminal sexual conduct involves an offender using aggravated coercion to accomplish sexual battery and is considered a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison (RAINN).
Third degree criminal sexual misconduct, in South Carolina, is defined as (RAINN):
Engaging in sexual battery with the victim and if:
The actor uses force or coercion to accomplish the sexual battery in the absence of aggravating circumstances; or
The actor knows or has reason to know that the victim is mentally defective, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless and aggravated force or aggravated coercion was not used to accomplish sexual battery.
A person cannot be guilty of this crime if the victim is the legal spouse of the person unless the couple is living apart or if the purported marriage includes a male under 16 or a female under 14.
Only 230 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to police, meaning about 3 out of every 4 go unreported (RAINN). Statistics on the frequency of sexual assault are often underestimations of the actual problem.
The fact that many are underreported, along with the fact that sexual assault cases are hard to prosecute, contributes to the low number of incarcerated offenders. Out of every 1,000 offenders, it is estimated that only five will go to jail or prison.
Many factors contribute to a victim’s reluctance to report. Shame, fear of consequences, desire to forget and fear of not being believed are among the most common. It is not uncommon, or unreasonable for someone to decide not to report. Some argue this is irresponsible because it leaves the offender to continue preying on others, but if we consider the number of convictions, we are forced to acknowledge that the criminal system shares more responsibility for perpetrators walking free.
Trauma that occurs after a sexual assault can be debilitating. Those who experience assault are more likely to become depressed or suicidal, to engage in substance abuse, to suffer from mental illness and they are more likely to experience problems in relationships with others (RAINN).
According to RAINN, 84 percent of survivors who were victimized by an intimate partner experience professional or emotional issues. Thirty seven percent experience family and/or friend problems; including getting into arguments more frequently than before, not feeling able to trust close ones, or not feeling as close to them as before the crime.
Pee Dee Coalition aims to provide victims with the companionship and support they need to get through these tough times. Services are aimed at helping survivors explore their options to report, including accompaniment in hospital and legal processes. The Emergency Safe Shelter and New Beginnings Transitional Shelter provide survivors with the means to readjust to independent, free living while giving them new skills that will help them heal.
Sexual assault is never the victim’s fault, and as a community it is our shared responsibility to ensure victims feel safe coming forward. We must also teach our young ones about the importance of consent; how it is given and time when it cannot be given.
Pee Dee Coalition strives to provide the community with tools to help them be prepared for attacks through the Rape Aggression Defense course (RAD).
This nine-hour, interactive course is designed for groups of women ages 12 and up and includes a curriculum on rape defense as well as moves that help women defend themselves. RAD is the only self-defense program ever endorsed by the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA), National Academy of Defense Education, the National Self- Defense Institute (NSDI) and Redman Training Gear.
RAD is free, and our instructors can work with your group to provide training for specific audiences, like senior citizen defense. Special requests such as these do not include modifications to the curriculum, but consider which moves best suited for participants.
To schedule a RAD training, please contact Denisse Guzman at 843-601-8688 or e-mail dguzman@peedeecoalition.org.
For more information on Pee Dee Coalition, please go to www.peedeecoalition.org or follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/PeeDeeCoalition.
The organization is continuing to provide services virtually and ensures the 24-hour crisis line will remain in operational and can be reached at 843-669-4600 or 1-800-273-1820. For any other inquiries, you may also call your local crisis center.
Pee Dee Coalition is a member of the United Way.

Author: Rachel Howell

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