Sexual assault occurs every two minutes in the U.S. Fourty-four percent of victims are under the age of 18. These statistics, reported by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), shed light on an issue that affects huge numbers of high school students in the country, and yet is often under-discussed.
At the request of East’s administration, the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault (MOCSA) sent Neta Meltzer, an Education and Outreach Specialist at the organization, to give an assembly on sexual assault on Thursday, April 16. MOCSA is a Kansas City-based organization that provides counseling and therapy, as well as legal help, for victims of sexual assault, and works to educate the community on the topic.
“I think it’s an important issue because it’s something that is happening a lot,” Meltzer said to the Harbinger after the presentation. “We know that it’s something that’s going on and we want to talk to you guys about how to stop it. If we’re educated about the issue, if we’re educated about sexual assault that’s the first step to stopping it in our community. Education is always the first step.”
Sexual assault is a broad term for any sexual activity, from kissing to intercourse, without the consent of the parties involved. MOCSA unambiguously defines consent as, “at the time of the act, there are words and physical actions indicating that everyone involved freely agrees and really wants to do the same thing.”
In the assembly Meltzer discussed ways in which consent isn’t legitimate, such as when the victim is blackmailed, under the influence of drugs or in an unequal power relationship, and used a metaphor of a pen to illustrate her point. She covered the different different types of sexual assault: statutory, forcible, drug-facilitated and marital, as well as stranger and non-stranger assault. According to MOCSA, 85 percent of sexual assault is committed by someone known to the victim, and 60 percent occurs in the victim’s own home.
The ultimate purpose of the assembly was to encourage students to become “active bystanders,” to notice when sexual assault is occurring or may be about to occur, to interrupt the event, and to support the victim. RAINN says 68 percent of sexual assault is never reported to the police, and MOCSA hopes that by dissuading myths about sexual assault, providing support and creating active bystanders, the number of victims can be reduced, and people who are victims can feel safe in seeking help.
“I did think it was good that they had the assembly, since it’s close to home [referring to recent issues at East concerning sexual assault],” senior Millie Dinkel said. “Sexual assault is an issue, and although I knew most of the stuff, I hope that other people learned from it. We have to be aware of those situations, follow your gut instinct and know that these resources are available to help you.”
If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault, you can get help at MOCSA’s website, or call their Kansas crisis line at 913-642-0233.