Watch Out: Sexual Assault in North Carolina and Beyond

Headlines+were+made+again+just+a+few+weeks+ago+after+the+discovery+of+a+dead+Sarah+Everard%2C+inciting+a+conversation+about+how+no+one+is+as+safe+as+they+think+they+are+

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Headlines were made again just a few weeks ago after the discovery of a dead Sarah Everard, inciting a conversation about how no one is as safe as they think they are

Trigger Warning: Assault, Sexual Assault mentioned. 

Everything was done right: keys in hand, fluorescent athleisure pulled on, and a check in text sent, Sarah Everard embarked upon a quick jog, not knowing that her final moments loomed upon her with each ticking second. It’s the message left on read — “text me when you get home” — that struck a chord with so many women across the globe on March 20th, 2020, the date Everard’s remains were found on the side of the road, sparking outrage and inciting a wave of backlash against ignorance and misogyny under the namesake hashtag.  

Although awareness of sexual assault and rape is a trending topic on social media, sex crimes have been around for centuries.  Statistics reported in North Carolina as of 2008 show that 21.5% of rape victims were under the age of 14 and 61.7% were under the age of 30. One out of six women will experience an attempted or committed rape in her lifetime. Before the age of 18, one in four girls and one in six boys will experience sexual abuse. Out of both males and females, 60% of rapes and sexual assaults are not reported to the police.

Sex crimes do not just happen from strangers but more likely will be committed by a trusted adult, guardian, acquaintance, or friend. Around 75% of date or acquaintance rapes involve date rape drugs or absurd amounts of consumed alcohol provided by the perpetrator.

In addition to the traumatic experience of a sexual assault, victims may suffer psychological effects to their mental, emotional and physical health.  The victims of sexual assault are three times more likely to be diagnosed with depression and four times more likely to experience suicidal thoughts. Victims of sexual violence/abuse/harassment are six times more likely to suffer from PTSD. Victims are thirteen times more likely to abuse alcohol and 26 times more likely to abuse drugs.  

Not only is rape/sexual assault a major problem in North Carolina, but human trafficking is also a critical issue in North Carolina. People are unaware that human trafficking is happening right in front of them. Globally the human trafficking profits reach up to $150 billion dollars per year and $99 billion dollars of that profit is from commercial sexual exploitation. Women and young girls make up around 71% of enslaved people while men and young boys make up 29%. North Carolina is ranked eleventh in the nation for human trafficking cases in 2019.

Recognizing and identifying signs of human trafficking could save someone’s life. Signs of human trafficking may include, individuals who do not possess an ID or important documents, fearful/anxious behavior, unexplained bodily injuries, noticeably odd older significant other(s), inappropriate clothing depending on age, sudden possessions of expensive materials or cash. Signs of human trafficking within businesses or transportation include unusual security measures, blacked-out windows in residence or vehicles, odd entrances or hours within businesses, transportation by men from one place to another, women are always accompanied by someone and rarely leave a specific building, vans parked besides specific cars or in an empty parking lot. 

There are precautions that can be taken to protect yourself from human trafficking.  Check underneath your vehicle before unlocking your doors (human traffickers could hide underneath your vehicle and wait until you reach the door to cut your achilles making it impossible to run) and have a trusted friend/co-worker walk you to your vehicle. If there are any objects/money on your vehicle door handle do NOT touch it!  Find the nearest open building or get into your vehicle and lock your door, then drive to the nearest police station in case you are being followed. (Objects can be used as a distraction and or contain a tracking device.)  If there is a van parked on the driver’s side, then enter your vehicle through the opposite door, locking it immediately or running to the nearest open building or store and call the police. (Traffickers will block the public view to avoid witnesses.)  If you suspect you are being followed while driving, drive to the nearest police station instead of home. (Many traffickers will follow individuals home to know their location.) Check that your vehicle is empty before entering.   If you are walking on a trail alone and an unfamiliar person tries to approach you, run in the opposite direction.  If there are numbers and letters written on your property call your local police immediately. (Human traffickers will write the number of individuals within a residence in order to identify who lives in the household. For example, the marking ‘1F’ on property could mean traffickers are communicating with each other that one female is living alone.) 

Green Hope Students Survey Statistics 

Results to Female Form:

    • 51.1% of Green Hope females surveyed have been touched sexually/groped when they did not want to be
  • 23.4% of Green Hope females surveyed have been forced, coerced, manipulated, or pressured into unwanted sexual activity
  • 12.8% of Green Hope females surveyed have been touched sexually by an adult or an authority figure
  • Only 8.5% of Green Hope females surveyed have never experienced any form of sexual harassment or assault

 

What you can do to help 

 As heartbreaking as it is, everyone is at risk of assault, regardless of gender identity. This constant fear of harassment and assault is unjustifiable, as well as unacceptable. Below are actions and resources to educate yourselves, others, and create a safer community.

  • Call out others 

Calling out peers if they are speaking about others in a derogatory way or creating an unsafe environment can be extremely impactful. While conflict is scary, correcting sexist, perverted behavior is the first step in changing the community for better. Educating the ignorant, especially close friends, leads to an increase in awareness and a decrease in harmful actions.

  • Do not be a bystander

Many individuals have been harassed in public without receiving support or help from bystanders. If you witness someone being followed, verbally harassed, or even appearing uncomfortable because of another person, walking over to them and providing support is extremely helpful. By physically showing your support for a vulnerable individual, others may be inspired to do the same. 

  • Listen and Console

If a peer has the courage to open up about their own experience, ensure it is a safe space for them. Avoid any insinuation that their experience was unimportant, as their feelings are valid. Do not victim blame. Encourage her to report the incident. The emotional effect of assault is just as significant as the physical, and, if they are open to it, therapy is beneficial for many victims. 

  • For a deeper look into supporting a victim of sexual assault, click here.
  • For a 24/7 text line, with a trained counselor ready to discuss any mental health concerns, click here.
  • For The National Sexual Assault Online Hotline, to speak to a trained professional for confidential crisis support, click here.