On average, 17 Alaskan women are sexually assaulted every day. This grim statistic, compiled in a survey by the UAA Justice Center, reflects a statewide dilemma. With a sexual assault rate 2.6 times
the national average, Alaska is caught in an epidemic.
Facing the highest rate of sexual assault in the nation, all residents of Alaska are affected, according to Keeley Olson, director of Standing Together Against Rape (STAR).
“(Sexual assault) affects our families, it affects our partners, it affects people who don’t know anything about the assault that we don’t disclose to: our employers, our teachers, our coworkers and anyone that we come into contact with. Whether we disclose to them or not about the violence that has occurred, the violence affects everyone,” Olson said.
In response, STAR is hosting its fourth ‘Walk a Mile in Her Shoes’ event on April 8th. To show support to women in their lives, men can walk the along the UAA spine in high heels. Stilettos, pumps, wedges, open toed or sling-backs all send the same message: wobbling against sexual assault.
Senior justice major and commander in ROTC Chris Carter said that he understands why women are frightened to go to clubs.
“There are definitely professionals out there, and the women are out there distracted by drinking and having a good time. (Women) need to be aware that there are predatory guys out there,” Carter said.
Some women, such as Siting Feng and Fanglin Qi, both junior accounting majors, don’t feel insecure when planning a night out with the girls.
“Not really. I don’t think about it,” Feng said when asked if she is ever aware of the risk of sexual assault.
“We usually go out with a group of girls and don’t think anything will happen,” Qi said.
Olson had a different opinion altogether, reasoning that men don’t understand the fear that women have when going out on the town.
“(Men) just can’t really know what it’s like for a woman to be facing gender violence, to be facing catcalls and ridicule just walking down the street, to feel like it’s not safe to go out at night. Most men have a hard time wrapping their head around that,” Olson said.
Regardless of viewpoints, the fact stands that sexual assault happens all too frequently in Alaska. Anchorage recently increased from fourth to ninth highest rate of sexual assault in the nation. Fairbanks stands firm with the highest rate of sexual assault in the country.
The Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event has spread worldwide. Organized by Moses Okoth, Nairobi, Kenya held their first walk against sexual assault. In an email to Olsen, Okoth described the animosity that the 120 male participants were met with.
“It was a moment that we have had like no other… being arrested… while walking. Thrown into police cells (with our belongings) confiscated, slept in police cells and despite that the battle continues,” Okoth wrote.
Men who choose to walk in America are thankfully protected by the first amendment. Anchorage’s event is slated to draw the Alaska Aces, men of the military and every Y chromosome in between. In the past, US Attorneys and District Attorneys have walked in heels to understand a woman’s perspective.
For the men that choose to walk in support of women, Olson recommends looking for large shoe sizes on the Internet or in ShuzyQ, a local store that carries large sizes. In addition, support teams can walk alongside men to offer assistance, whether in the form of emotional encouragement or ankle braces.
After the humor of men in heels subsides, the painful truth about sexual assault remains. The University Police Department (UPD) has quick tips on preventing acquaintance rape on their website. In addition, UPD offers Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) training. Regardless of these defense measures, Olsen made it clear that the only person that can truly prevent rape is the rapist.
Interview with Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, Georgia DeKeyser,
How many incidents of sexual assault are there reported to SHCC per semester?
We reviewed our electronic medical records by diagnosis. This search revealed that one to two times per semester a student may seek SHCC for immediate services related to an assault. Having said this, it is not uncommon for students bring up their history of sexual assault, or domestic violence issues, in mental health counseling sessions.
How many reports come from incidents occurring on campus?
This information can be obtained through the Dean of Students Office, M Votava
How can people prevent being sexually assaulted, other than self defense?
Knowing your individual rights; right to your body, right to change your mind, and right to be listened to and respected.
Setting Limits; knowing your limits for alcohol and drug use, knowing limits for sexual involvement, and knowing who you are comfortable “hanging out “ with.
Being alert and in control; knowing who you are with and where you are going, knowing that drugs and alcohol make you less alert and aware, and always carrying money or going out with friends to make it easier to get out of a bad situation.
Communicating Assertively; being clear about what you want, letting others know when they are violating your boundaries, saying now when you mean no, saying yes when you mean yes.
Trust your gut; if you are feeling that something isn’t right, get out of the situation, don’t be afraid to be rude or make a scene, you’re worth protecting
*adapted from Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault
What should the student body know about sexual assault?
The victim is never at fault. Doing everything “right” does not guarantee that you won’t be assaulted, not doing things right does not mean that you will be assaulted. If you were engaging in risky behavior, remember, poor judgment is not a rape able offense.
*adapted from Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault
Will SHCC be participating in the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event?
Anna Hinman, DOS Counselor and Lexy Prunella, DOS Drug and Alcohol Counselor, are the UAA liaisons for this activity.
What services does SHCC offer in response to a sexual assault?
We respond to the immediate medical needs.
We discuss treatment options.
We encourage reporting of the assault.
We counsel regarding the process of obtaining a restraining order.
We offer immediate short term mental health counseling and refer for longer term situations.
We offer referral resources:
STAR, (Stand Together Against Rape,) for forensic exam and follow-up support,
AWAIC (Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis) for immediate safety,