A look at sexual assault on the San Juan Islands

By Heather Spaulding

Journal reporter

The San Juans are idyllic, but just like the rest of the country, it is a place where sexual assault occurs.

In fact, Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services has helped 13 sexual assault clients so far in 2016 in San Juan County, according to DVSAS advocate Kristina Moen. Unfortunately, experts say that most assault cases go unreported.

“The norms and myths that perpetuate sexual violence and allow sexual violence to go unreported are present here in the San Juan Islands,” Moen said, “Sexual assault victims usually turn to friends and family first. The best thing that you can do to support a victim is to listen and believe them, and help them seek services.”

Sheriff Ron Krebs also confirmed that rape is an under reported crime and when it is reported victims usually turn to DVSAS rather than law enforcement because victims do not want to prosecute or make the crime public.

Last year DVSAS assisted 40 clients in regards to sexual assault inSan Juan County, and the sheriffs’ office had about 18 reports of sexual offense, which is less than half of what DVSAS saw in their records. The sheriff’s office has had one report of a sexual offense incident in 2016.

“The Hunting Ground” uses statistics that fewer than 8 percent of men on campus are responsible for 90 percent of college rapes. Amy Herdy, investigating producer of the “Hunting Ground,” said if sexual predators were prosecuted and rapists held accountable for their crimes, a huge impact would be made in regards to preventing rape and sexual assault. It is difficult to say for certain if San Juan county echoes those statistics because we don’t have in-depth data on these crimes, however, there are many other things communities can do to beginning with educating children.

“Teach younger children about consent, boundaries.” Moen says, “Teach them how to read how others are feeling, to ask before touching, playing or taking something. If someone says no, they must respect that.”

Moen went on to discuss topics of education for older children as well. “Make chatting about relationships a normal part of life. Your child is going to learn about sex and relationships whether you talk to them or not, wouldn’t you rather they hear it from you?”

In terms of prevention and assistance, DVSAS advocate Stand Up Men Richard Lowe said talking to your child is key.

” If you are a father who believes in fully respecting both women and all people, remember that your child is watching you. Always,” he said. “I had good role models growing up, but they were outnumbered by bad role models. I know most people don’t rape and don’t abuse, and our society needs those examples to stand up and be heard. It takes courage to do this, but it’s worth it. It our community, we can make it safer.”