Tuesday, 18 June 2024

Sexual Assault Awareness Month seeks to prevent crimes, give power back to victims

LAKE COUNTY – Imagine being mugged for your wallet. Then, imagine a judge letting the mugger go free and ruling that it was your own fault for carrying your wallet in the first place – that the bulging wallet in your back pocket was an invitation for a mugging.

Now, imagine the mugger is a rapist and the wallet is a tight pair of jeans.

That is what happened to one rape victim in Italy. A judge overturned a 45-year-old rapist’s conviction because his 18-year-old rape victim was wearing tight jeans, and that it is common knowledge that tight jeans can’t be removed without the wearer’s assistance.

The judgment sparked a worldwide outcry from those who understand that coercion, threats and violence go along with the act of rape. The unpopular verdict became an international symbol of myth-based injustice for sexual assault victims.

The “Denim Day California!” campaign began in 1999 with the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA) and Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women (LACAAW) – now known as “Peace Over Violence,” as part of an international protest against the Italian High Court decision to overturn that rape conviction.

This year, Denim Day was observed on Wednesday, April 21 and many community members and business professionals showed their support by wearing denim.

Denim Day falls within April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The 2010 theme is, “Prevent sexual violence … on our campuses.” Wear a teal ribbon during the month of April to show you support for victims of sexual assault.

Tuesday, April 20 was the specific “day of action” for this month-long time of recognition. Look out for LFRC’s banner on Highway 20 between Main Street in Kelseyville and Live Oak Drive.

Last year, there were 99 reported sex crimes in Lake County, according to Lake Family Resource Center Program Manager LeMon Perales.

“If you extrapolate, there were 10 or more rapes per week in Lake County in 2009, but typically only two of those 10 victims will report the crime,” she said. “About 70 to 80 percent of sex crimes aren’t reported.”

The 99 reported sex crimes in Lake County most likely represent a much larger issue. Lake Family Resource Center is poised to respond to those that do come forward.

LFRC has a large variety of services available. They have a crisis hotline, 1-800-799-SAFE (7233),that people may call to get help with issues such as suicide, domestic violence and sexual assault. The operators are expert listeners and support victims with their trust and believe that what they say is true.

“If you have been sexually assaulted, someone has robbed you of your personal power,” said Perales. “We give that back immediately.”

It all comes down to whether or not a victim willingly seeks help; by law LFRC keeps everything confidential, even from law enforcement, she said.

A rape crisis center also is available and provides a safe refuge for victim-survivors of sexual assault. Aside from a safe place, education and information on victims’ rights and law processes is also offered.

If only our community did not need such a resource. LFRC hopes to see the day when sexual assault ceases to occur in Lake County and across the nation.

Perales stresses that, although women are capable of committing rape, men are still the overwhelming perpetrators and women are the typical victims. Women have been speaking out against sexual violence for decades, and Perales says it’s time for men to do the same.

“Men need to step up and say that this is not what it means to be a man and that they won’t stand by and let those criminals treat women that way and ruin the male reputation,” she said. “Since men are mostly responsible, it is mens’ responsibility to stop it. Once the social pressure to end sexual violence is too much to bear, then maybe rape will stop.”

Perales often presents information on these sensitive subjects to the local high schools and agencies. She is willing to present anywhere she is invited.

To request a presentation at your club, agency, volunteer group etc., feel free to contact Perales at 707-263-0563.

Visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s Web site at www.nsvrc.org/saam for more information and to purchase SAAM theme items. Also visit Lake Family Resource Center’s Web site for more information on all of their programs: http://lakefrc.org/programs.html.

E-mail Tera deVroede at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

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