I serve as an advocate for sexual assault survivors in the Army National Guard. I attended an 80-hour course in 2017, and I spent the last two days in refresher training. I hope this information helps you in your daily lives and spheres of influence.
The Army’s official definition: Sexual assault is a crime defined as intentional sexual contact, characterized by the use of force, physical threat or abuse of authority or when the victim does not or cannot consent.
Sexual assault is immoral. It is not about sex. It is about power and control. Sexual assault is not the victim’s fault.
Some arguments say it is the victim’s fault because they put themselves in a position to be sexually assaulted. This is not true. What needs to be understood is that we all assume a level of risk with every decision we make.
I have absolutely no issue with informing people of the risks involved with specific actions or behaviors. In fact, my mom informed me at a young age of the reality of sexual assault on the reservation we lived on. She told me about high-risk decisions such as walking outside alone at night or getting drunk. She also informed of the systemic issue that perpetrators are hardly ever held accountable for their actions, and victims are left to suffer without much help at all. She told me of commonly-used tactics such as alcohol and date rape drugs. She taught me that I had every right to do whatever I could to fight back. After hearing about all of this, I determined in my 8-year-old heart that I wasn’t going to drink alcohol or do drugs. I did not want anything to alter my mind and make me more vulnerable. I was already at risk living on the reservation.
All that to say, even if someone makes an informed high-risk decision, such as going out and getting drunk with people they do not know, that does not mean they are asking to be sexually assaulted. That does not mean that the sexual assault was the victim’s fault and that does not mean they deserved it.
I can think of another place where high-risk decisions are made — in war zones. At times, there is a high risk of death, but just because a decision is made with a high risk of death, that doesn’t mean they are asking to die or that death is their fault.
Sexual assault is not the victim’s fault.
A story that has stuck with me about sexual assault is Tonier Cain’s story. I had the privilege of hearing her speak in 2017 at a Children’s Justice Conference in Rapid City, S.D. Her story is intense. She experienced repeated sexual assaults beginning at nine years old. That led to alcohol and crack addiction, prostitution, homelessness, and being arrested 83 times and convicted 66 times.
The last time she went to prison, she went through a program called T.A.M.A.R’s Children which addressed addiction and trauma. She shares how God healed her there and brought her out of decades of abuse and destruction. Today, she advocates for trauma-informed care. She is the owner of two companies. She has shared her story in every U.S. state and abroad. She speaks in front of many professionals in law enforcement, health services, treatment facilities, and high schools and college campuses.
What I glean from Tonier’s story is that there is hope for healing. She was often written off as a hopeless case, but there is always hope. God can heal us from things that have happened to us.
If you are interested in her story, I’d recommend reading her autobiography, Healing Neen. She doesn’t hold back on the realities of what she faced and what she did. She has more information at http://www.neencares.org.
To sexual assault survivors: It was not your fault. You didn’t deserve it. Even if you made a high-risk decision, that does not mean you were asking to be sexually assaulted. There is hope. There is help available if you decide that you need it.
National 24-hour Helpline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or chat at https://www.rainn.org.
Yesterday, I watched a Netflix documentary titled, The Hunting Ground. This documentary has helped expose the issue of sexual assault and mishandled sexual assault reports on college campuses in America. Sexual assault survivors share their stories. I think it definitely worth watching.