I have spent the past year working as a Sexual Assault Victims’ Advocate supporting women when they come in for a sexual assault forensic exam. In many instances, after the victim finishes describing what has happened, they say things like the following: “Was that rape? Does that count? Maybe I didn’t say ‘No’ enough times. I don’t know if he realizes it was sexual assault. Maybe he thought it was okay.” These women are deeply shaken by what has happened to them. Sometimes they are numb with shock. They shake and cry. They feel confused and scared. (Visit RAINN.org for sobering information and statistics on what victims of sexual assault experience.) Why are these women questioning if what happened to them counts as sexual assault when it is clear to law enforcement, forensic nurses, and judges that a rape has occurred? Why do men often not realize that what they have done qualifies as sexual assault? It is because they have not been taught about consent!
The Utah Legislature recently had the opportunity with HB0177 to include information about consent, sexual violence prevention, and sexual assault resource strategies as part of the state’s sexual education curriculum. The bill was first significantly amended and then failed to pass. This is tragic! Rape is the only violent crime in Utah that is higher than the national average. Providing information will save lives. Teaching refusal skills is not enough for our youth and puts the onus of sexual assault prevention on victims rather than perpetrators. Please, Utahns, talk to your legislators about this issue so we can do better next session. Let’s empower all our children by teaching them about consent!
Anarie White, Plain City
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