Tackling abuse for 30 days

Expect to see more teal green this April. It’s not the new color of the season, but it is the color of sexual assault awareness.

For the next month, promoting sexual assault awareness is on the minds of employees and volunteers of The SAAFE House. Melissa Scopa from The SAAFE House said that this month they want students and citizens to take notice and talk about sexual assault.

“It’s a very conservative environment around here and when you’re in this type of environment, people just don’t want to talk about sex,” Scopa said. “Whether it’s in regards to sexual assault or sex education, it’s just a very taboo subject.”

Huntsville does have a wide variety of offenses, but many sexual assaults and sexual abuse cases in the city are committed against children.

Marital rape is also a problem that many people are not aware of, Scopa said. No one wants to admit that they are being raped by someone they married, she said.

To help people learn more about sexual assault, The SAAFE House will be hosting a variety of events on campus.

The first event students will notice this week, Scopa said, is a human art display in the mall area. Victims of sexual assault have designed t-shirts that are an artistic display of their experiences. The appearance of each shirt is different from person to person, Scopa said, with some telling their story completely through pictures and others including words.

The campus will be covered in green April 10-13. The SAAFE House and other organizations on campus will be tying and handing out green ribbons to help remind people the purpose of promoting awareness.

“I think we have a tendency to pretend that something we don’t want to talk about and something we don’t want to think about doesn’t exist, but this is real and people need to pay attention to what’s going on in their community,” Scopa said.

To help sexual assault become more real to students and citizens, people are asked to “Begin by Believing: Get Educated,” as they get the chance to “walk the walk” of being a sexual assault victim on Wednesday April 19 in the LSC auditorium. This activity will show people what a sexual assault victim goes through after they have been attacked, Scopa said. Step by step, people will see what happens after the attack, what happens at the hospital and in conversations with police as well as what it is like for a victim to tell their family and friends what happened. It is a very good way for people to understand what it is really like for someone to go through this process, Scopa said.

“Begin By Believing: Walk into Awareness,” beginning the fourth week in April, will bring together students and organizations on campus for a candle light vigil that starts on sorority hill as students walk to the Old Main Pit. A number of survivors will be reading poems and speaking to students about their experiences. Scopa said this is a great way to end the month because it is a visual way for people to take a stand against sexual assault.

Most of the events for the month are taking place on campus, Scopa said, because students in the age range of 16 to 24 are more venerable to sexual assaults. Of the sexual assaults that occur each year, 80 percent of the victims are under the age of 30, according to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network.

The inexperience of being younger and being too trusting of people sometimes leads to not making the best decision, Scopa said.

“If you go to a party and you leave your drink with your date, you don’t know if your date may or may not have the date rape drug,” Scopa said. “A person could slip it into your drink even if you leave your drink with a friend because they accidentally forget to watch it.”

The common misconception about sexual assault is that someone from behind the bushes jumps out and attacks you, Scopa said, but it hits much closer to home. More than 85 percent of sexual assault victims are attacked by people they know. Scopa said that out of the people who are sexually assaulted, 42 percent told no one about the crime and only five percent of those victims reported the incident to police.

For those who have suffered a sexual assault or any type of sexual abuse, Scopa said she wants people to realize that they’re not alone.

“A sexual assault survivor many times feels that they’re alone and that they are different from everyone else,” Scopa said. “The fact is, our job wouldn’t be here, our agency wouldn’t be here, if there wasn’t a great need for it. So they are not alone by any means.”

With over 330,000 rapes each year in Texas alone, Scopa wants to make sure that survivors of sexual assaults know that they do have a safe place to find help. It is not just the job of the victims, Scopa said. The community can help this problem by reaching out and becoming more aware about sexual assaults. Scopa said the most important thing is to stop and realize that this is happening; the community has a responsibility to be educated and educate others to be more aware of what is going on in their community.

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