Sexual assault in focus

IT’S TIME … to talk about it; sexual assault that is.

That’s the main talking point behind this year’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), being observed throughout the month of April.

The recent Steubenville rape case involving two members of the Big Red football team and a young girl from a neighboring community in West Virginia only solidified the belief of many that sexual assault is still a major and growing problem throughout the United States and beyond.

The numbers can be alarming.

Approximately 743,000 adult women in the state of Ohio are survivors of rape. One in four girls and one in six boys are sexually victimized before the age of 18.

“We encourage everyone to take a moment to consider how we can prevent sexual assault and support survivors in our communities,” said Paula Planey, the education coordinator at the Tri-County Help Center in St. Clairsville.

Tri-County, serving Belmont, Harrison and Monroe counties locally, is a private, non-profit agency of the Mental Health and Recovery Board.

It specializes in mental health and anti-violence services. It also serves as a 24-hour emergency shelter for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.

SAAM is a campaign that provides tools and information on healthy childhood sexual development for adults to use in approaching their responsibility in protecting children.

And statistically speaking, it is the children who need the most protection from sexual assault.

Forty-percent of all sexual assault victims are under the age of 18. Expanding out a bit, 80 percent are under the age of 30. Girls between 16-19 are four times more likely than the general population to be the victim of sexual assault or rape.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center clearly states that there are four messages that need to be dispelled in regards to sexual assault:

  • Victims are not responsible for “ruining” a perpetrator’s life. Rape is a crime of power and abuse.
  • Alcohol is not the cause of rape. While alcohol is often used to facilitate a rape, it is not the root cause.
  • Blaming the victim and calling victim credibility into question will never end sexual violence.
  • Victims’ identities should be protected. Their names should never be published.

The staff at Tri-County Help Center encourages everyone to take a moment and consider how you can prevent sexual assault and support survivors in your communities.

If you or someone you know is a survivor, know that you are not alone and help is available by calling (800) 695-1639 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

Hughes may be reached at