Report : Scars of Sexual Assault

Sexual assault causes permanent scars

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

- By Lynn Shield, executive director of Operation Care and spokesperson for the Amador County Sexual Assault Awareness Month Committee

Editor's note: The Amador Ledger Dispatch will be running a series of guest commentaries from Operation Care throughout April. We encourage this community to get involved in the fight against sexual assault and domestic violence.

Look around you. Who do you know that is a survivor of sexual assault?  You almost certainly know at least one survivor.  The FBI and the Journal of Traumatic Stress state about one in three women has been a victim of sexual assault; further, such victimization has happened to one of four girls, one of six boys and even one of 11 men. And the effects don't end with an attack; they go on for a lifetime.

Sexual assault is any undesired physical contact of a sexual nature perpetrated against another person. This can include anything from an undesired touch to the actual act of rape with physical violence. Perpetrators of sex crimes can be any age, sex, color or occupation. Sexual crimes can happen at home, at school, at work, in a parking lot or public place. As you may have seen from recent reports, perpetrators can even be very high level authority figures that seem on the surface to be trusted adults. They prey on their victims and may repeat the crime again and again with the same victim or multiple victims.

Long-term affects

Victims of sexual assault carry the crime with them for the rest of their lives. They may experience some or all of the following long term affects:

- Nightmares that keep rewinding over and over.

- Triggers such as a certain smell, shirt, place, sound or item may remind the victim of the incident.

- Flashbacks that repeat themselves over and over while they are awake.

- They can suffer from physical symptoms, such as chronic aches and pains on a place of their body that was victimized. (Example: If they were forced to perform oral copulation, they may suffer from chronic sore throats.)

- Psychological effects including shock, denial, fear, confusion, anxiety, withdrawal, guilt, nervousness, distrust in others and PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).

- Social effects include difficulty maintaining good relationships with partners, family and friends and a tendency to become isolated.

Victims of sexual assault will often want to "get clean" as soon as possible, by washing, throwing away clothes, etc. DON'T DO IT. Victims of rape should go to a safe place, contact law enforcement and go to a hospital. They should not bathe, douche or brush their teeth. They should hold on to their clothing. If they choose not to report the incident, they should at least seek medical attention to make sure they have not suffered any serious injuries or contracted any diseases. If you or someone you know needs help, call 911 or call the 24-hour crisis line at 223-2600 to talk to a counselor.

April is nationally recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Throughout the month, Operation Care and Amador County's Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) Committee are inviting employers to allow their staff to break the dress code and the silence by wearing jeans during the month of April, and especially on Denim Day, Wednesday April 19. Wearing jeans is a symbol of protest of harmful attitudes about rape in response to an Italian Supreme Court decision to overturn a rape conviction because the victim wore jeans. This decision did not recognize that coercion, threats and force are a part of the act of rape. 

The Amador County Sexual Assault Awareness Committee consists of members from Operation Care, Amador-Tuolumne Community Action Agency, District Attorney's Office, Sutter Amador Hospital, American Legion Ambulance, Amador County Public Health Department, Amador County Child Abuse Prevention Council, The ARC, and others.

Operation Care is a non-profit organization founded in 1980 providing domestic violence and sexual assault support services, crisis intervention and education to our community. For more information, call 223-2897.

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