Music pulsed through the party as people danced together, pressed front to back. A girl wandered around the crowd, disoriented and clutching her drink as tightly as she could. Someone she barely recognized grabbed her wrist and dragged her away from the party. Everyone around them ignored what happened next.
Situations like this, where women are raped by either acquaintances or strangers, happen to one in five women, according to the New York Times. This is the same statistic as deaths in America caused by cigarette smoke and people affected with arthritis, but one aspect is completely different — rape cases, also known as sexual assault, are seemingly ignored by the general public. Both men and women of all ages are affected by sexual assault every day.
“Domestic abuse, sexual assault and sexual harassment aren’t too common at West,” Lea Putnam, junior counselor at West, said. “I don’t deal with it daily, but I do have people come in to talk to me about being involved in abuse, assault or harassment three to five times a month.”
The Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) reported that 44 percent of victims of rape are under the age of 18. According to Ourvoicenc.org, one in four girls and one in six boys are part of that 44 percent.
“I would definitely say rape is an epidemic,” Leah Rubinsky, the prevention education coordinator at the Our Voice Rape Crisis Center said. “It’s one we don’t acknowledge, and how can we fight an epidemic if we don’t talk about it?”
Victims of sexual violence rarely come forward to the authorities, frequently because of what’s called “victim-blaming,” which is shaming and blaming survivors for the acts against them.
“Victim-blaming creates an environment in which a survivor has much shame. They think it’s their fault when it’s not,” Rubinsky said. “At Our Voice, we say ‘nothing is a rapable offense.’”
Rubinsky has worked in the domestic violence and sexual assault field since she majored in women’s health in college and began working at Our Voice soon after she moved to Asheville.
Our Voice focuses on counseling for survivors and helping to keep them at ease in the hospital. The organization also works to promote the education and prevention of domestic violence and sexual assault. Through the years, they have been developing their Spanish-speaking outreach program and the
One In Six program, which is meant for men that have been abused. They see survivors of “drug-facilitated sexual assault,” or DFSA. Drugs and alcohol are involved in 75 percent of date rapes.
“We do have a lot of people come in that have been drugged,” Rubinsky said. “There are a lot of alcohol-related rapes as well. People forget alcohol is a drug, and it can change people. Drinking doesn’t mean you can violate boundaries or have sex with someone.”
In August, four North Carolina State University students released a nail polish called “Undercover Colors” meant to prevent date rape where drinks are drugged with products such as Rohypnol or Xanax. The nail polish changes color when exposed to drugs and warn the wearer to any substance added to their drink.
“Our goal is to invent technologies that empower women to protect themselves from this heinous and quietly pervasive crime,” Undercover Colors states on its Facebook page. “With our nail polish, any woman will be empowered to discreetly ensure her safety by simply stirring her drink with her finger. If her nail polish changes color, she’ll know that something is wrong.”
A local case of DFSA allegedly involved former East Henderson students James “Matt” Bishop, Tyler Scott Garren, Justin Wesley Ponder and Vincent Joseph Curto. The four were charged with the second degree rape of a girl they had invited to a party.
The case attracted national attention when Bishop and his parents appeared in a two-part special of the Dr.Phil Show along with the victim and others connected to alleged date rape. The episodes included varied accounts of the events of Dec. 8, 2012
“Around 10 p.m. the girl took me by my hand downstairs where she unbuttoned my pants. After I had sex with her, she kept on asking for more, and I couldn’t give any more so around 10:30, I went upstairs and I told them that she kept on saying that she wanted more,” Bishop said. “And that’s when Wesley went downstairs. When he came back upstairs, he had the same response that I did.”
Dr. Phil McGraw, host of the show and a well-known psychologist, pointed out that the boys had committed crimes that night by having possessed and drunk alcohol underage. McGraw did not give his opinion on Bishop’s guilt or innocence in relation to the rape charge.
The boys have requested separate trials, which have been scheduled for January 2015.
By: MaryKent Wolff