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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

On My Mind: Sexual Assault Awareness Month 

The importance of raising awareness through the eyes of a victim 
A photo of me at age eight. 
Brittany Wachtel
A photo of me at age eight. 

Disclaimer: This column discusses sexual assault and mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts, which may be triggering for some readers. 

April is sexual assault awareness month, a time to acknowledge the prevalence of sexual assault worldwide.  

From the ages of eight to ten, I was a victim of rape at the hands of a family member. Since going through therapy and healing from my trauma I have become an advocate for victims of assault. 

Sexual assault sometimes feels like a taboo topic, something that you should not discuss publicly, but silence never solves anything.  

The Statistics 

With an American being sexually assaulted every 68 seconds, America has become a country plagued by sexual violence. According to RAINN (the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network), every nine minutes, the victim of sexual assault is a child. Research also shows that college students ages 18 through 24 are more likely to fall victim to sexual assault, particularly women.   

Victims of sexual assault are nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. According to the Medical University of South Carolina, rape victims are 13 times more likely than non-crime victims to have attempted suicide (13-1). 

All of this to say, there needs to be a change.  

Currently in the United States, there is a rape kit backlog, meaning victims of assault who go through a rape kit are likely to not have the findings reported to law enforcement.  

In the last decade, multiple cities and states have reported DNA sitting in labs untested or completed rape kits sitting in hospitals untouched by a lab.  

Rape kits are the most useful tool in prosecuting abusers as they provide DNA evidence that connects the victim to the abuser, so a backlog may explain why currently out of every 1,000 sexual assaults, 975 abusers will walk free.  

Sadly, many victims do not feel inclined to report their assault. Studies show that two of every three assaults go unreported, with victims saying they fear retaliation and believed that the criminal justice system would do nothing to help.  

My Story 

For three years, I was consistently being sexually abused by a man that I had come to love and trust. I was misled into believing that if you loved someone, the only way to prove that love was sexually. 

As an eight-year-old, I didn’t know what sex was or who it was meant for. I was under the impression that all kids had an experience like mine. Because of this, I didn’t speak up until two years following my abuse. 

Whenever I began nearing my teenage years, I discovered that sex wasn’t what I had thought it was.  

I remember the moment I realized what was happening to me, the moment I realized I was a victim. I felt betrayed by a man who I had loved for years, by a man who I thought would never do anything to hurt me.  

As I get older, I am still learning how to cope with my abuse. Navigating life after assault is taxing, but it is important to realize that there is no “right” way to handle the pain that comes with being a victim.  

From the moment I chose to report my assault, I began to understand why many victims don’t feel inclined to involve law enforcement.  

Upon reporting my assault over two years after the abuse stopped, child protective services wanted to do a rape kit, but sadly there is no kit that proves assault so far after the fact.  

From that point on, my case was a lost cause.  

Since the easiest option for obtaining evidence wasn’t applicable to my scenario, the police gave up. My parents and I kept fighting for justice, but there was nothing else that could be done. The justice system was not willing to help me. 

I have seen firsthand that the American Justice System does nothing to support victims of assault. 

Currently, RAINN is working with different government entities to pass new legislation meant to protect victims of assault, which you can read more about at  

Local Resources 

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, is it important to know of local resources available to you.  

Safe Haven of Ashland is a rape and domestic violence crisis shelter that seeks to support victims of assault by offering free shelter and resources. They can be reached at (419)282-6097 or via their crisis hotline (419)289-8085. 

Rhonda Bletner is a Safe Haven representative on Ashland University’s campus. Students may contact her via email [email protected] 

In Wooster, OneEighty serves as a domestic abuse treatment center. They provide residential treatment as well as mentorship for those seeking legal intervention. OneEighty can be reached via their 24/7 hotline 1-800-686-1122. 

Know that if you are a victim of assault, you have a community ready to help you through your healing journey.  

You are never alone. 

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