Every 92 Seconds:

Sexual Assault is striking close to home in Aurora, just like the rest of America, at the rate of once every 92 seconds.

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Every 92 Seconds:

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Alexis Drummond, Review Staff

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Art and Graphics by Alexis Drummond

Trigger Warning: This article contains information about sexual assault which may be triggering to some. The victims, all Coloradan women now over the age of 18, have asked to tell their stories, but to keep their identities private.

On the most beautiful of days, she’s walking home from school, sunnies on, airpods in, a light breeze gently drifts her hair in the wind. Those headphones are playing her anthem and her steps perfectly match the beat of the track. And like every day, she turns right into the alley that cuts five minutes off her walk, the alley she’s used for what seems like every day of her life.

Yet something or someone ominous is lurking, and while she was focused on her music, she didn’t see them walking behind her. She’s so into her music that she doesn’t realize the predator following her every step for the past ten minutes.   

Her favorite song comes on and suddenly she feel someone grab her from behind. The airpods fall out of her ears, the phone dives to the ground. Her backpack gets thrown to the left. She kicks; she punch; she try to fight back, but it is no use. 

She can’t do anything to stop them. 

Sexual assault happens more than it should; it happens so often it has become a normal situation we hear about. The worst part is after it happened — the constant reminders, the inability to speak up because of the fear of name-calling, and worse, the moment when you become a generalized story.

Every sexual assault is different; every victim has a story; it’s time we listen to them. 

SURVIVOR #1: “I was walking home after going to the store. I decided to cut through the park that was close to my home; it was quiet and I could enjoy the creek that ran down the middle of it. I had gotten to a part of the path that was covered by trees on the right side, so it blocked the houses that were there. This is when I saw my old childhood friend walking towards me. I stopped to say hi to him and we talked for a few minutes before going back on our ways.”

Every 92 seconds, someone becomes the victim of a sexual assault. This only mentions people within the United States. Unfortunately, sexual assault happens more frequently across the world.

A picture of the sunrise at Rangeview High School. A sexual assault occurs every 92 seconds in the United States. (Alexis Drummond)

At some point in one’s lifetime, one in five women and one in 71 men will be assaulted. In Colorado alone, 23.8% of women experience some type of sexual assault. This is higher than the national prevalence of 18.3%

In Colorado schools, out of a sample size of just over 35,000, 3% of males and 9.6% of females claim they have been physically forced to have sexual intercourse when they did not want to. These are only the students who have spoken up for themselves; only 230 out of every 1000 sexual assaults are reported to the police. 

SURVIVOR# 1: “I got about ten steps in when I felt someone grab me from behind. I was thrown to the ground; my vision was blurred from the impact of my head hitting the ground. I couldn’t see who was attacking me, but I could hear his voice; it had been my childhood friend.”

Was it a dream?

SURVIVOR #2: “My brother’s friend — who is like family to us — spent the night. It was late at night and suddenly I felt my blanket roll down my body and I felt a hand touching me, lifting my pants. I instantly froze and couldn’t move. I allowed it to happen because I didn’t know what to do. It took me hours to fall back asleep and when I finally woke up, I didn’t know if it was real or not.” 

The attacks happened once more. Still, the victim didn’t know what to do; they didn’t know how to correctly handle the situation at hand. She’s not alone, RAIN reports only 23% of sexual assaults are reported, while a Washington Post analysis of Justice Department figures reports only 31% are reported. Either figure presents a haunting reality that shows a majority of assaults go unreported.

“The second time it happened, I stayed up waiting to see if I was dreaming or if it was real. What had happened the first night, repeated. I froze up again and allowed it to happen. I don’t know why I kept on letting him violate me; I just couldn’t move a muscle; I felt trapped. This time, I cried because I knew it wasn’t a dream; it was real.”

The victim didn’t tell anyone about her brother’s friend. She felt like it was her fault for letting it happen to her twice. She felt like nobody would listen to her. 

“I couldn’t believe I had just let him do it. The next time he stayed over, it happened again; except this time, I stood up for myself. I asked him why he was in my room and what he was doing. He lied, of course, because he was shocked that I was awake this time. To this day, my brother is still friends with him, even after I told him what he had done to me.” 

The majority of sexual assaults occur while victims are in their own homes, while 29% occur when the victim is traveling between locations.  (Alexis Drummond)

This is one case where the victim was attacked in their own home. 55% of victims were sleeping or in their home when the attack occurred; 29% of victims were traveling to or from a certain location; 12% were working; 7% were at school; 5% were doing an unknown activity. The point is, sexual assault can happen anywhere, at any time, to anybody.

SURVIVOR #1: “I tried to fight; I tried to scream, but there was nobody around to hear me. To get me to stop screaming, he had put his hand over my mouth and pushed down. He put his knees on my arms so they would be pinned until he was able to tie them together with his belt. When he had control of my arms, he pulled my pants off and began to rape me. I couldn’t do anything but count the seconds going by. It lasted ten minutes and 37 seconds.”

Defenseless:

SURVIVOR #3: “When I was seven years old, I was home alone with my cousin — who was 14 — and my best friend — who was about 12. My cousin thought it’d be a good idea to get us to try to show each other our parts. My cousin got me out of my dress and started to touch me inappropriately. At the time I didn’t know what to do. I was confused about what was happening. Today, when I look back on what I remember, it makes me sad to think that my cousin would do something like that. I haven’t forgiven him and probably never will.”

Every nine minutes, Child Protective Services (CPS) finds evidence of child sex abuse. 2.5% of all assaults are committed by a non-spouse relative. Each year 63,000 children are victims of sexual abuse. For child and teen victims under the age of 18, 34% of victims are under the age of 12. 66% of victims were between the ages of 12 and 17.

SURVIVOR #1: “When he was done, he ran away and left me there, defenseless. I quickly cleaned myself up and ran home. I didn’t tell my parents what had happened because I didn’t want to get in trouble. I felt like it was my fault. A few weeks after it had happened, I found out I was pregnant.”

Just a friend:

SURVIVOR #4: “I was with my so-called guy best friend. He was at my house because we had gone to the pool together with a bunch of other friends. When we were done, both he and another one of my friends came back to my house while they waited for their rides.” 

The victim went up to their room to change when the attacker walked in on her dressing. He pushed himself onto her and wouldn’t stop when he was told no. She tried to push him away from her, but he wouldn’t leave. 

SURVIVOR #4: “I was just glad it stopped when my other friend walked into the room. I feel like if she didn’t, he would have had his way with me. I still blame myself and it’s hard for me not to.”

Nobody ever thinks that the one that attacks them is going to be someone they know. After growing up together, doing everything together, one might think they were siblings. Out of ten cases of sexual assault, eight knew their attacker. For victims between the ages of 18 and 29, two-thirds of them had a prior relationship with the offender.

SURVIVOR #1: “I didn’t know what to do. I called my aunt and told her everything that had happened. She helped me and took me to get an abortion. I never did tell my parents what happened that night, and they will never find out. Everywhere I go, I make sure I have some type of weapon on me. Every time I walk by that park, I remember everything that happened in full detail. When I look at his face, I break down and find myself feeling defenseless.” 

Just being aware of your surroundings and knowing the people you are hanging out with could save you from a potential attack. 

If you do happen to be sexually assaulted, you could go to any hospital up to 72 hours after the attack. They will collect all of the evidence, do STD tests, get you everything you need if you wanted to report the attack to the police. The hospital will even hold the evidence for up to six months if you were unsure about reporting it. 

Photo of a sign found at Aurora South Hospital. Hospitals will collect as much evidence as they can and they will save everything for up to six months. (Alexis Drummond)

If you or anyone else becomes a victim of one of these crimes, there is always someone to talk to. You could contact someone from Safe To Tell either on their website or by phone: 1-877-542-7233; you could contact someone from RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) on their website or by phone: 800-656-4673; Health One: Medical Center of Aurora; City of Aurora: Victim Services and Rights; or Thrive Center. There is always someone you could talk to.

Stand up; speak up. Prevent this from happening.