BUT they CAN help to prevent it...
By Shari Levine
It happens every six minutes in America.
It happens to one out of every three women, rich and poor, black and white. It happens when you least expect it. It happens in the daytime and at night, in public and in private. It's called sexual asxault, and it could happen to you.
Singer/songwriter Tori Amos was sexually assaulted at gunpoint. It happened one night when she agreed to give one of her fans a ride home from the bar where she was performing. She never told the police or anyone about the assault, but eventually she wrote and recorded a song about her experience called Me and My Gun. Her fans started to approach her with their own stories of sexual assault. In 1994 she created RAINN -- the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network -- which provides free, confidential phone counseling for victims of sexual assault.
In the book, Your Weapon Within: How to Lower Your Risk of Sexual Assault, author Bill Nelson says that even though 94% of all perpetrators (people who commit the assault) are male and their victims are female, our society continues to blame the female victim. By saying things like,
"She was wearing tight clothes."
"She should not have been walking alone at night."
We are still blaming the victim!
Girls are bombarded with advice about how to prevent sexual assault. Experts focus way too much attention on the seductive or sexy way girls dress, dance, walk, or talk. It feels like they are saying that girls are "asking for it" if they dress in tight clothes or act flirtatious.
Sexual assault is never the victim's fault!
I had the opportunity to interview author, Bill Nelson last month. He believes that girls are NOT to blame AND that girls and women need to learn how to protect themselves, and to work to eliminate the threat of sexual assault for future generations.
Bill explains the three levels of defense...
Avoid the situation altogether.
Try to escape a dangerous situation by talking your way out of it, or by distracting an attacker and running away.
Fighting should be your last resort because you CAN get hurt.
To defend yourself, Bill recommends:
- Avoid a dangerous situation by staying in a public place with a friend, and don't get into a car with a strange or suspicious man.
- Limit your use of alcohol and drugs -- if you are under the influence you are putting yourself at much higher risk for assault.
- Get yourself a "gadget" like a whistle, mace or pepper spray.
WARNING If you want to carry a gadget, you must become an expert on how to use it. You must learn how it works, how good are the chemicals, do they freeze, and how far will they shoot? Bill says, "Any weapon in your hand can be a weapon in your attacker's hand because they are often stronger than you. Weapons create the potential for you to get hurt with it."
Learn to use Your Weapon Within. According to Bill, this means that you use your senses rather than a gadget. He says, "Use your eyes, nose, ears and your intuition. Listen to and trust the signals from your body and mind when they go off.
"Trust yourself if you don't feel right or feel in danger, and leave the situation.
- In a situation where you feel uncomfortable, walk, talk and act confident, because most attackers will notice if you seem vulnerable.
- If you are being assaulted, yell FIRE or You're not my father rather than screaming or crying for help.
Bill also talked about the bigger picture -- what we can do for the future to change our culture...
Bill says, "Men who rape are acting out their power and control, and they use sex as a tool. To prevent sexual assault, we need to fight sexism and gender roles that divide boys and girls. We need to put the responsibility for sexual assault in men's hands. Men rape and it's not women's faults."
Bill reminds girls, "In any situation, if you are attacked, it is not your fault." You did nothing wrong.
If you need help call the RAINN Hotline at 800-656-HOPE
For prevention tips and if you are assaulted - RAINN