Every year thousands of people are sexually assaulted. This includes everyone; men, women, and children. However even with the victims of sexual assaulted ranging in age and gender, it is college age women who are the most common. Research has shown that every 2 minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted.
Alaska has continuously been ranked number one nationally for not only sexual assault, but also child sexual abuse. Anchorage is one of the top ranked cities for sexual assault. Because of these facts, it has become a necessity to bring awareness to patrons of this high risk city.
The entire month of April is set to bring education and awareness to those who were affected, know someone who was affected, and especially those who do not believe that they are at risk. In Anchorage events are set to take place all over town for patrons to attend, participate in, and ultimately raise money.
AWAIC (Abused women’s aid in crisis) and STAR (Stand together against rape) are the top supporters of bringing sexual assault awareness to the population. They sponsor big events; two of the biggest include Take Back the Night and Walk a Mile in Her Shoes. Others are the filming of Telling Amy’s Story, ZUMBA dance fundraiser, and national wear denim day.
“I go to these events every year,” said James Oliver. “I have a close friend who was assaulted and so being able to help out in any ways I can has a personal connection.”
Take Back the Night helps people find support from others who have been affected by sharing stories, lyrics, and poems to speak out against violence.
“It is my favorite event because it is so powerful. The voices that would otherwise gone mostly unheard are able to speak out to a large number of people,” said Oliver. “Unfortunately only people above the age of 21 can participate leaving out a large chunk of the population that could benefit from it.”
Walk a mile in her shoes invites men and women from all over Anchorage to wear high heels and walk a mile in them to represent women who have been sexually assaulted.
Basic tips that are recommended by services like STAR to protect people and lower the risk of being sexually assaulted in public.
Having a buddy system with someone really trustworthy when going out to bars or in unfamiliar places is key to ensure a person’s safety. Always bring a closed bottle of water that never gets left unattended. Pepper spray in a bag is handy not only for pesky Alaskan wildlife. If alone, stay in populated and brightly lit areas.
While these tips may be considered obvious to most people, studies show that people do not believe that a sexual assault can occur to them and therefore do not prepare for even these simple tips, increasing their risk substantially.
Sexual assault is not only in public by strangers, but also in the comfort of a person’s home by those they believe they love.
“Domestic violence is just as prominent as public sexual assault by a casual acquaintance. In some ways, it can be even worse,” said Terra Emerson, a counselor who has dealt with many of these cases. “While a public sexual assault usually happen once, domestic violence victims refuse to acknowledge the damage being done and are continuously attacked again and again.”
Through education, awareness, and events in the community, organizations like STAR and AWAIC are working to stop all forms of sexual assault from occurring, and thus reducing the rate of sexual assault in Anchorage making it a safer place for those who live here.