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The following was written and submitted by Bobbi McGraw.
There are four concepts within this letter:
1-address a problem in a school district in Wyoming
2-raise awareness of the pervasiveness of sexual assault and hazing
3-bring action from community members and others
In an effort to advocate for victims of hazing and sexual assault in a small town in Wyoming, I am writing this letter to raise awareness of not only the deeds but the lack of attention given to these abhorrent crimes. When reported to administration and local law enforcement, victims have been ignored or told they are partly to blame. Survivors and their families feel they have no recourse, that their child(ren) is left vulnerable and at risk of repeated victimization.
What should these parents and victims do? Where should they turn? Who will attend to their needs if authorities turn a blind eye?
In the US, 1 in 6 females and 1 in 33 males will be sexually assaulted (attempted or completed rape). Most victims are children, age 12-17; 34% are under the age of 12; 66% are 12-17 (RAINN, 2016).
When trauma occurs, neurotransmitters in the brain are literally rewired, which then leaves the survivor’s thought process and behaviors changed.
Not only does the victim suffer from trauma, but all those in her/his life, as well; i.e.; secondary survivors.
Will these young survivors ever be the same? NO, they will not! They have been traumatized in a way that rewires the brain; that literally manipulates the neurotransmitters into no longer responding in usual ways.
Trauma changes the brain, which in turn, changes thought processes and behavior. Trauma alters an individual’s ability to self-regulate, focus and engage, tolerate distress, and function on a normal level.
When a child is traumatized the consequences are compounded. The sexual assault survivor has to re-learn self-governance, security, how to disengage from hypo-arousal, and how to re-engage the thinking brain. These individuals relive their trauma day in and day out with no reprieve; the brain malfunctions, so to speak, because it is confused about the critical difference between processing trauma and reliving the trauma.
Rape, sexual assault, hazing, and other forms of sexual violence are at pandemic levels in our world, our nation, and in Wyoming.
It is time for society to intervene, to stop perpetrators, and to Start By Believing survivors. Whether the survivor is a family member, friend, student, co-worker, peer, or a complete stranger, it is our duty to step up and speak up.
Those who are victimized share some common traits;
1-fear of shame by coming forward
2-fear of being blamed for the assault
3-fear of not being believed
4-fear of retaliation by the perpetrator(s)
5-threats by the perpetrator(s) and her/his family/friends
6-no action taken by those to whom disclosure is given
7-fear of gossip, or lack of confidentiality
What can you do?
First- Start By Believing
Second- give back control to the survivor. Ask what s/he would like you to do, or how you can help. Ask if s/he would like to report to authorities (encourage this).
Third- don’t give up the fight! If the first person you report to does nothing, go to another until your story is heard and those responsible are held accountable.
Fourth- remember mandatory reporting laws for children under the age 18
And finally be supportive and compassionate. Assure the survivor that it is not her/his fault. Encourage her/him to have an exam by a SANE nurse, if within proper timeframe.
Be proactive in your community and in the school district. Educate, bring awareness! Sexual assault crimes are serious and must be attended to by authorities, educators, caregivers, law enforcement, society, parents, and by legislators.
A Concerned Individual,
RAINN 800-656-HOPE (4673)
WCADVSA 307-755-5481 or 844-264-8080
These are just a few of the many resources provided. If you need help, reach out to a trusted friend/family member, or contact one of the links above.