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Letters to the Editor

LETTER: Everyone deserves to be safe

To the Editor:

Dear Community Members:

According to Justice Department Studies:

The rape rate has increased faster than the overall crime rate in the last decade.

American women are four times more likely today to be a victim of rape than they were in 1960.

Women in the United States are eight times more likely to be raped than European women and 26 times more likely than Japanese women.

The prime target age for victimization is 16 to 24.

Nationally, studies indicate that one in four women may be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. Yet, according to Mary Koss, noted researcher with survivors, these figures may be low due to the stigma associated with victimization and because of 27 percent of the victims whose sexual assault met the legal definition understood that they had been sexually assaulted.

Rape, attempted rape, and sexual assault are violent crimes carried out as sexual acts. They include all or any unwanted, coerced, or forced sexual activity.

In many states, the Criminal Codes defines the willful misconduct of the perpetrator in terms of oral sexual contact, sexual contact, sexual intercourse. Non consensual contact is contact without consent including, a) the victim is coerced by the immediate use or threatened use of force against a person or property; b) the victim is incapable of consent by reason of mental disorder, drugs, alcohol, sleep or any other similar impairment of cognition and conditions and the impairment is known or should have reasonably been known to the perpetrator; c) the victim is intentionally deceived to erroneously believe that the person is the victim's spouse.

In legal terms when a person is raped, a crime has been committed.

Each victim had individualized personal responses.

The rape experience is personally disruptive for the victim. It results in individualized cognitive, behavioral and somatic disruptions. It is not uncommon for victims to experience the assault as severe altercation of self perceptions, to have flashbacks or reexperience the assault in nightmares and as invasive memories; to feel anger, rage, loss, or emotional numbness. Victims frequently find that social interactions become difficult. They may increase alcohol and drug use. They may consider, attempt or complete suicide.

Two points at which law enforcement and victim counseling converge is in providing supports is the agreement that, 1) perpetrators may have various motivations for committing sexual violence, and 2) the single distinguishing characteristic which separates a victim of sexual assaults, from the nonvictim, is an encounter with an individual who has made the decision to assault. The sexual assault would not have occurred without the intentional conduct of the perpetrator.

Alcohol and drugs may act as disinhibitors to assault, yet the act expresses a pre-existing tendency to rape and to disregard the wishes of the individual.

Unfortunately for victims, social attitudes and myths about male inability to control behavior may contribute to victim shame. Consequently, a victim is erroneously blamed for the assault because she was out late at night; was in a bar, a a bad section of town, a party where alcohol or drugs were used; left her windows open; her car or home unlocked; ran out of gas, kept her car in disrepair; trusted her father, brother, friends, neighbors, those she met through friends or family; was jogging, walking, riding her bike; was using alcohol or drugs; failed to fight hard enough or did not say No loud enough; complied because the assailant used a weapon, force or threat of force.

Every individual deserves the right to be safe. There are no exceptions.

SUSAN L. BRIGGS, of Streator.

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