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August 16, 2010 | by  | in Opinion |
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Sexual Assaults

At Student Health we often speak with students about safer sex and how to reduce the risk of exposure to a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and unplanned pregnancy. STIs can be easily treated with medication, but for victims of sexual assaults the effects can be emotionally devastating and life-long.

When someone ends up having sex against their wishes it isn’t just one of those expected experiences in life. It is sexual assault.

Potential effects of sexual assault on the victim include:

  • low self esteem
  • drug and alcohol abuse
  • depression/anxiety
  • general distrust
  • fear
  • dysfunctional destructive personal relationships
  • fear for the safety of their children

The accused person, whether they are innocent or guilty, can ponder the prospect of:

  • 20 years maximum prison penalty for rape
  • 20 years maximum penalty for unlawful sexual connection
  • Substantial legal costs, and a in small country such as New Zealand,
  • a lifetime social stigma which may include their friends, family and work colleagues

Factors which can increase a person’s risk of experiencing a sexual assault include:

  • Impaired judgement related to the effects of alcohol and drug use
  • Separation from friends who care about you
  • Taking unnecessary risks such as trusting people you would not necessarily trust if you were sober or drug-free
  • Age—most sexual assault complaints involve young people who are known to each other or move within similar social circles

Issues related to consent

Consent is when a sober and rational person is situated so as to be able to make a rational decision upon the matter to which he or she consents. Being asleep on a couch after a night of drinking in town does not mean you are consenting to have sex. Using aggressive or threatening behaviour to intimidate someone into having sex is wrong. Ignoring a person’s verbal and non-verbal requests to stop is sexual assault. Consent can be withdrawn after starting to have sex.

When sex is consensual it is expected that people are able to negotiate boundaries, including what type of sex they are comfortable with having and when and where they have sex. Someone does not respect or love or even care for you if they expect you to have sex when they know you do not want to.

To protect yourself and your future, do not have sex with any one without their consent. To help reduce risk of sexual assault, make a safety plan before you go into town, to a party or use alcohol and other mind-altering drugs. Stick to the plan. Know how you are going to get home safely. Stay with people you trust, be aware of how much alcohol you are drinking, eat food and keep an eye on your glass. If walking home, stay together and keep to main streets, taking ‘shortcuts’ through parks and dimly lit lanes is not a good idea.

The police provide 24-hour expert care for anyone who has been assaulted. If a sexual assault occurs, dial 111 to contact the police as soon as you can. Where possible, a victim should preserve their clothing unwashed and hold off having a shower and going to the toilet until they have spoken to police. The police have a close working relationship with Rape Crisis—they offer counselling and support throughout the process no matter what a victim decides is right for them.

The police will also be able to arrange specialist medical care which may involve treatment for physical injuries, the administration of prophylactic antibiotics to protect against some STIs, and if appropriate, the emergency contraceptive pill to reduce the risk of pregnancy. Contacting the police does not mean you have to lay charges.

During working hours you can contact the Student Health Service, 463 5308. You can also contact Constable Baz Murfin, who is the Community Police Officer for Victoria University
on 381 2001 or at barry.murfin@police.govt.nz.

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