Opinion

We can be part of the solution | Editorial

April gives us a lot more to think about than spring.

This month is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Child Abuse Prevention Month, and Alcohol Awareness Month — three issues that plague our society yet three issues on which we can make such a big difference.

Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services of the San Juan Islands is using this month to make you aware of some important facts:

— Nationally, one in three girls and one in five boys will be the victim of sexual assault by age 16. Those who are abused as children often grow up to become offenders.

— Denial, minimizing and blaming victims for sexual assault remain the most powerful mythologies in our society today.

— We can turn the tide. The solution begins with each of us. Knowledge is power: “If we’re not aware, we will keep reinforcing it,” said Anita Castle, executive director of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services. “I’ve seen so many lives change after coming through these doors, and it starts by talking about what’s going on.”

The common thread in adult sexual assault and child abuse: Between 85 and 90 percent of victims know their offender. Many had a good relationship with the eventual perpetrator.

How do we turn the tide? Know this:

— No one deserves to be sexually assaulted.

— Choice of clothes is not an invitation.

— There is no gray area: “yes” means “yes” and everything else means “no.”

Regarding children: Children need to know what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate. That goes for physical contact and subject matter of talk. Parents need to pay attention to their children and any changes in behavior or school performance. But mostly, parents need to pay attention. Period.

“For some, the danger lurks in shadows,” Andrew Vachss wrote in Parade magazine in August 2004. “For others, it’s on the Internet. Or within the children’s ‘circle of trust’ — teachers, coaches, babysitters, day-care workers, religious personnel, youth leaders. But, as always, the greatest danger to children is from within their own families. Child abuse may be up or down in any given year, but it is always a fact. And addressing it is never on the national agenda.”

DVSAS offers legal and medical advocacy for children and adults, as well as therapy, a 24-hour crisis line (378-2345), safe homes, ESL classes, and education and prevention outreach.

To learn more about self-empowerment and abuse prevention, contact DVSAS at 376-5979.

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