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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Guest Opinion

Domestic violence, sex crimes on the rise locally

Guest Opinion By Olivia Rieger

The week of March 8-14 is known as NO MORE Week.  If you are not familiar, and even if you are, you may recall the NO MORE television commercials aired by the NFL and various celebrities which included emotional statements, long silences and information about breaking cycles of sexual assault and domestic violence.  According to the NO MORE website (www.NOMORE.org), the goal of NO MORE Week is “a national effort to engage every individual, organization, or corporation to say NO MORE to domestic violence and sexual assault and to make domestic violence and sexual assault awareness and prevention a priority year-round.”  It is my hope that domestic violence and sexual assault awareness and prevention will become a priority in our own community.

What I appreciate most about NO MORE is the statistics that they provide regarding sexual assault and domestic violence – showing that these violent crimes are actually happening and aren’t just something that “someone” made up.  Recently, NO MORE stated that 12.7 million people are physically abused, raped or stalked by their partners in one year; citing that number being the population of New York City and Los Angeles combined and further stating that means 24 people every minute become a victim.  NOMORE.ORG lists statistics such as: 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men experience violence from their partners in their lifetimes; 1 in 3 teens experience physical or sexual abuse from a boyfriend or girlfriend in one year; 1 in 5 women are a survivor of rape and 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men are sexually assaulted before age 18.  Those are eye-opening statistics and I would submit to our own community that those statistics run just as true here in our community just as in metropolitan cities.

Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence know no boundaries when it comes to economics, class, race, gender, religion, or even age.  In Dawson County, we have worked with victims of sexual assault and domestic violence as young as elementary school to elderly individuals.  We have worked with men as victims and women as victims.  There have been victims who have become survivors and victims who are working through that process.  Sexual based crimes are on the rise in our community.  Partner related violence is increasingly more violent.  Assaults on our children and our elderly are becoming more common-place.  This is an unacceptable trend and because of organizations like NO MORE, education and awareness are being promoted by celebrities; people we socially respect.

I would submit to our community, however, that those who we should respect the most are the survivors of this violence.  We have victims of sexual assault who have endured name-calling, items being thrown at them as people drive by, loss of homes due to the assault, failing grades in school, self-harm in private all the while wondering why people don’t believe them.  It has been my experience that survivors of this sort of violence are the strongest individuals that have been put on this planet.  They endure more pain and suffering working towards becoming a survivor than anyone could ever imagine.  The victim-blaming and immediate excuse making for perpetrators of this violence must stop in our community.  If you take a few minutes to read through the website and links available on NOMORE.org, you may begin to understand what truly happens to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.

During NO MORE Week, please take action.  Tweet about not accepting Sexual Violence or Domestic Violence any longer.  On your Facebook status, let people know how unacceptable it is to refer to victims of sexual assault by derogatory names.  Stop the bullying related to sexual violence or domestic violence that you see in school or at work.  Post about ways to recognize that one of your family members or friends may be in a bad relationship.  Post a photo on Instagram on why sexual and domestic violence prevention and attention is needed for our community.  Use the hashtag #NOMOREweek all week long. 

 Just as NOMORE.org says – “together we can”.   I truly believe that together, we really can make a difference.

Dawson County Attorney Olivia Rieger can be reached at riegerlaw@gmail.com.

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