Sexual violence leaves scars

To the editor:

April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention month. There are many types of sexual assault, some of which involve physical violence and some of which involve coercion (threats of what will happen if you don’t comply with the request for sex) and some of which involve both. Examples of sexual assault include rape, sexual molestation, sexual harassment and sexual exploitation. All of these acts are variations on a theme – one person forcing, coercing or exploiting another person to satisfy his/her own sexual desires. It doesn’t matter if you’re married to the person. Statistics show that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men will experience sexual violence during their lifetime.

Most people know that sexual violence is a bad thing. However, many people may not be able to recognize the outcome of sexual violence. They may interact daily with people who have experienced sexual violence and not have the slightest clue that this is a factor in the way the person behaves. Children who suffer sexual molestation may lose their own ability to maintain appropriate boundaries, leading them into all kinds of trouble as teenagers and adults. They may engage in consensual sexual activity at a very young age. They may exchange sex for favors at a very young age. Many prostitutes were victims of sexual abuse as children or adolescents. The outcome of that form of sexual violence led to prostitution. Many teens and preteens who engage in consensual sex from a very early age are doing so because their personal boundaries and positive self-esteem were destroyed by sexual molestation.

Sexual violence leaves deep wounds that take a long time to heal. Even after the wounds have healed, the scars have pushed tendrils into so many facets of a person’s soul and emotions that it’s sometimes hard to hide them or cover them up. What do the scars look like? They look like difficulty trusting, chronic depression, chronic anxiety, promiscuity, substance use disorders, among others. Before judging a person because of behaviors that are unhealthy or frowned upon or looked at as moral deficiencies, keep in mind that some of the people displaying those types of behaviors are simply showing their scars.

Please help the Baraga County Shelter Home raise awareness of sexual assault and do your part in preventing future sexual violence.

Sherry Cheek