PCA lecture informs students about sexual assault, dating violence

Tristan Allen, Reporter

Katie Russell, prevention specialist for the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault (MOCSA), talked to attendees of the Professional Careers Academy (PCA) lecture on Thursday, Dec. 8, about sexual assault, ranging from what sexual assault is to how to prevent it.

Russell began the lecture by saying what her organization, MOCSA, provides. MOCSA provides a 24-hour crisis-line: (913) 642-0233 for Kansas, and (816) 642-0233 for Missouri. The organization also provides advocacy, emotional support and counselling services free of charge as well as education about sexual assault.

The lecture started off with a definition of sexual assault: any sexual activity committed without consent. This can be rape, unwanted contact, sexual harassment and other things as well.

That definition was followed up with the definition for consent: a free and enthusiastic yes, which means that there is no fear, force or coercion and the consent is active and ongoing. The consent has to be clear, verbal and nonverbal. Omission does not count as consent.

A video then related consent to a cup of tea. If a person wants a cup of tea, that is consent. If a person stops wanting a cup of tea, they no longer provide consent.

“Unconscious people don’t want tea,” Graham Wheeler, video narrator, said. “They said yes then, sure, but unconscious people don’t want tea.”

In some cases, consent is not acceptable explained Russell. For example, consent is not acceptable when with a minor, passed out, under the influence of substances, blackmailed or when there is an imbalance of power, such as an employer and employee.

Russell delved into the topic of sexual assault under the influence of substances. The most common drug used in sexual assault is alcohol because it is legal, easily available and not an abnormal substance to consume.

“Alcohol [or any other substance] plus victim plus perpetrator equals rape [or any other form of sexual assault],” Russell said, giving an easy way to understand the subject. “Victim plus perpetrator still equals rape [or any other form of sexual assault] too.”

Some statistics were shared at the lecture concerning sexual assault. Three out of four cases were committed by someone the victim knows; 2 to 6 percent of men will commit rape while less than 1 percent of women will do so also.

Sexual assault is the most underreported violent crime. Several causes are fear, embarrassment, not being believed, being threatened and a mistrust in the justice system.

“People don’t want to go through that process if they think they aren’t going to get justice,” Russell said, explaining how mistrust in the justice system plays a role in unreported sexual assault. She cited the Stanford swimming case as an example, where the perpetrator was only sentenced six months for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman.

To help a victim of sexual assault, Russell explained, one should actively listen, show empathy and firm belief, and offer options. It is not wise to interrupt, to use language that the victim avoids, to interrogate the victim, not taking their feelings and fears for granted or to take over on making decisions.

A victim can seek medical attention, report the assault, or apply for compensation if something was damaged during the crime.

The lecture then switched its focus to dating violence, which is when a partner in an intimate relationship tries to gain power over the other. Any method to gain control of the other is defined as abuse.

One in four women will experience abuse while one out of eight high school students will be in a bad relationship.

Russell taught that abusive relationships usually start out healthy, then tension starts to build up followed by an outburst, when the actual abuse happens. The cycle usually repeats seven times before the relationship is ended permanently.

In addition to physical abuse, there can also be verbal abuse, sexual abuse, and financial property abuse. A common tactic used by perpetrators is isolation, where the perpetrator cuts off the victim’s ties to anybody else, making the victim rely on the perpetrator.

Bystanders of dating violence can notice the act, interrupt the act, then support the victim.

Russell explained that victims are usually held responsible for protecting themselves, but all precautions can be taken and someone can still become a victim of dating violence or sexual assault.