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2013-01-03

Seniors hear seminar on personal safety

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

BCSO Deputy Matt Johnson led a seminar on sexual assault and personal safety Friday, Dec. 21 to Bandera High School seniors.
Johnson shared some shocking statistics with the group:
• One in six US women are rape victims
• 19,000 men are raped each year
• 35 percent of college men surveyed said they would rape a woman if they could get away with it
• 70 percent of college women who are raped know their assailant
• A rape occurs in the US every 6.2 minutes
• Women 16-24 years of age are most at risk.
Johnson said that rape is known as the silent crime because only one in 50 women report being raped. In addition, almost no men report being raped, "because it becomes an ego thing, and the fear that there will be an assumption of homosexuality," said Johnson.
Many women don't report incidents because they think that the assault is a private matter, or "they fear reprisal from the assailant."
"Don't be a victim," urged Johnson. "Be a survivor."
Johnson, who worked two years on a college police department, said, "I was shocked at how many put themselves in a dangerous situation by over-drinking. When you get drunk, you open yourself up to sexual assault."
Some important partying tips include:
• Arranging ahead of time to have a trusted friend with you who agrees to stay sober and be the designated driver
• Not accepting drinks from someone you barely know
• If you set your drink down for a few moments, get a new one
• If you drink, know your limits.
Anyone who is a victim of an assault needs to understand that, "It's not your fault!" and "No means no!"
Johnson said too many young people walk along with both ears blocked by their iPod ear buds, or walk, head down, texting on their phones. Walk with your head up and make eye contact with everyone you meet, look confident. Be aware of your surroundings.
It's also important to pay attention to your internal warning systems. Instinct is a primitive and effective alert that humans have hard-wired into their bodies for eons. It's why humans have survived on this planet. "If you sense something is wrong, it probably is. Get yourself out of there!" said Johnson.
All sexual assault victims need to remember that "your body is yours, and you don't ever have to stay silent," he said.
A victim of sexual assault, female or male, should do the following:
• Get to a safe place
• Do not clean up in any way - you could destroy evidence (you can, if you wish refuse to have evidence collected)
• Get medical attention as soon as possible
• Call 911
• Request a female officer, if you are female
• Ask a trusted friend to go with you to the examination room
• Get an attorney to represent you. The prosecuting attorney has a different agenda
• Sue the perpetrator in civil court for money
• Recognize that healing takes time
• Take advantage of professional help for therapy.
Online resources include www.rapecrisis.com; www.aftersilence.org; www.rainn.org.
The San Antonio Rape Crisis Center operates a 24-hour hotline at 210-349-7273.
Recommended books include Beauty Bites Beast: Awakening the Warrior Within Women and Girls by Ellen B. Snortland: and The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals that Protect Us From Violence by Gavin de Becker. Either one or both would make excellent gifts for that young woman going away from home for the first time.
Johnson encouraged the students to be good Samaritans to possible victims in the future.
"If you see someone in trouble from drinking, or showing signs of alcohol poisoning, call 911," said Johnson. "If you see some guy attempting to take advantage of a woman, man up!"
Survivors of sexual assault often face years of recovery from the trauma, but they do survive.
As Margaret Thatcher said, "You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it."