By Cali Bagby
Sexual assault is not a result of what a woman wears, how she speaks or how late she is out of her house at night. Rather, this violence comes from oppression from the imbalance of power and of one gender needing to exact a role of dominance.
As long as women are paid less then men, as long as we continue to debate whether women should have access to birth control and family planning services, sexual assault will continue to affect our communities. More than one-third of women who report being raped before age 18 also experience rape as an adult, according to National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
As long as we continue to ask what the victim could have done to stop the crime and as long as we shame victims we will see rape statistics rise. According to FBI crime estimates, rape rose 6.3 percent in western states in 2015.
As long as men remain silent, as long as men do not educate themselves or take responsibility for their actions, as long as college campuses ignore the epidemic of rape we will be a country that faces statistics like this: one in five women will be raped at some point in their lives, according to National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
The center also reports that 12.3 percent of women were age 10 or younger at the time of their first rape/victimization, and 30 percent of women were between the ages of 11 and 17.
There is hope to change these statistics.
In our community there are men standing up against violence in the islands. On San Juan you can see men standing outside the courthouse each week to advocate for the empowerment of women and to be activists against crimes toward women.
We applaud DVSAS for taking on a new approach to the issues in our community by turning the mirror around and asking men to take a stand to empower other men to not perpetuate sexual crimes. Last year they started the “100 Stand Up Men” campaign, where men donated $100 to DVSAS, and named a woman they were honoring. But we need to do more. We need to start by educating our youth, especially young men, to help them be instruments of change in the future.
Every student should watch the film “The Hunting Ground.” We urge local schools to take a stand and screen this film to our high school students. Educating the young men in our communities is the first step in a long road to ending our long history of sexual assault in this country.