Law enforcement, civic agencies raise awareness for sexual assault

To show their support for sexual assault awareness, local police officers will walk a mile in high heels.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the “Walk A Mile in Our Shoes” spectacle that has law enforcement officials no doubt stumbling a mile in pumps aims to highlight the differences between men and women.

According to Bureau of Justice statistics, roughly 90 percent of rape victims are women.

Lynn Koch, community services coordinator for Domestic Violence Awareness and Sexual Assault Center (DVA/SAC), said the month highlights several services available to victims and works to educate the community about sexual assault, including quashing some misnomers about sexual assault.

“There is the misconception that on some level the victim asked for it,” Koch said. “(Sexual assault) is not spur of the moment: ‘Oh my god. She is wearing a really hot dress.”

Koch said perpetrators of sexual assault plan and coordinate the attack. They groom their victims and plan the evening. In about 75 percent of sexual assault cases, someone the victim knows, and likely trusts, is the perpetrator, according to the Bureau of Justice.

That is why DVA/SAC focuses on educating people on the importance what to look for and how to keep oneself away from situations that can lead to date rape, Koch said.

“We really wanted to break this myth that this is a stranger in a dark alley and a dark hood,” Koch said.

Through awareness, DVA/SAC aims to help parents raise children to be independent and able to listen to their inner voice when something doesn’t feel right. That independence, Koch said, will also ensure that they are not bystanders of sexual assault. Rather than hounding victims with questions, those involved in understanding sexual assault would do better to learn how the perpetrator perceived “no” as “yes.”

However, there is some good news. The Bureau of Justice analysis shows that sexual assault has seen a decline over the past decade. Although the statistics show that the amount of sexual assaults reported has fluctuated since 1995, only 1.8 per 1,000 women reported having been raped in 2005 as opposed to the 5 per 1,000 in 1995. The decreased has remained fairly level since 2005.

In addition to the “Walk a Mile in Our Shoes” event, numerous awareness activities will be held throughout the month. Public service announcements will air on Kix 101.1, and Iowa Valley Continuing Education will host volunteer training for sexual assault victim support.

Sexual assault survivors will have a chance to share their experience by decorating T-shirts with a message. The shirts will be hung on a clothesline as part of a collaborative art project at the Fisher Community Center.

Koch said clothesline is symbolic.

“(It represents) those lines of community support,” she said. “Representing how women build their support systems.”

For more information on the month’s events, call DVA/SAC at 641-753-3513.