Attend this free virtual presentation on the dynamics of hookup culture, online dating, and learn how to engage in them in safe and healthy ways!
As students, we expect educational institutions to be a safe haven where we can freely learn, grow, and thrive. Unfortunately, the reality is far from what we imagine.
Picture this: it’s the start of a new school year, and you’re sitting in your first sex education class. You’re listening to the teacher drone on about the birds and the bees, but as the lesson progresses, you start to realize that something is missing.
Reclaim/Reclama 2023 is SARC’s annual art magazine featuring the works of people across Oregon who have been impacted by sexual violence.
Here at SARC we get to be in peoples’ lives in unique ways. We get to hear peoples’ most vulnerable stories, their heartache, their fears.
The topic of sexual assault is one of the most whispered conversations, filled with hidden stories and rising stigmas around the world.
Reclaim/Reclama 2022 is SARC’s annual art magazine featuring the works of people across Oregon who have been impacted by sexual violence.
Read our volunteer, Frankie’s, take on the importance of consent below.
What is consent? Consent, in any situation, is a strong, enthusiastic YES, when NO is a viable option. Consent is mandatory during any sexual encounter with anyone, but consent is also necessary in every situation, not just sexual encounters. We must give and get consent in social environments, too. Just as you should not engage sexually with someone without consent, you should not hug someone, feed someone, make them tea, or do anything that they do not explicitly want you to do. While consent is usually discussed in terms of sexual experiences, it should be a key part of our culture as a whole.
One of our favorite videos to get the point across. Seen it?
The phrase “rape culture” is pervasive, and describes the reality of sexual violence and harassment, across a broad spectrum, experienced by millions every day. Working counter to this is “consent culture,” an ideal to work toward. It normalizes and popularizes consent, not limited to sexuality. Consent can be asked for and given every day in dozens of ways, through checking in, being verbally direct, offering options, and respecting people’s choices. Too often it is also often in dozens of ways as well. Attitudes of entitlement can often lead to people not consistently asking for consent, which can result in other people losing their autonomy and power. If we are entitled, we are less like to consider the needs, wellbeing, and desires of others. An entitled world becomes selfish and self-serving, not a community in which anyone wants to live.
Building a culture of consent can, and should, begin at a very young age. Some middle and high schools teach consent as a program or as part of a health class. However, high school is often a late start to introducing ideals about consent. By the time children have become young adults, they’ve been exposed to toxic norms about relationships, interacting with others, and entitlement for years. Teaching teenagers about consent is great, but earlier education has the ability to focus less on undoing unhealthy behaviors and more on raising youth on healthy norms from the start.
Consent is a lesson to teach early and often. It is also necessary to model consent as adults. When parents, relatives, family friends, and authority figures normalize consent, kids are more likely to be comfortable discussing consent and understanding what is meant by consent and consent culture. They can feel more confident holding their own personal boundaries, and more conscious about asking others for their preferences. Informed children become informed adults, and informed adults become informed role models, parents, mentors, and more. This is how we grow consent culture and eliminate ignorance.
Curious for more information? Here are additional resources:
When you feel at a loss of control over the circumstances in your life, it is common to be filled with self-doubt, anxiety, guilt, and a plethora of other draining emotions that hurt in more ways than one. Whether we are aware of it, pain takes on both mental and physical side effects. Muscle tightness, headaches, weight fluctuation, high blood pressure, and insomnia are just some side effects of persistent negative emotions–and since everybody is different, the symptoms may vary from person to person.
What is also true is that within all of us is the power to take control of how we cope with the circumstances life throws our way. And though we may always face hardship, the way in which we process it can help bring us closer to the health and happiness we all deserve.
What is mind-body medicine? Mind-body medicine is the practice of healing ourselves in both a mental and physical way based on the idea that every mental component has a physical component, and vice versa. And so, we can often address one by giving care and attention to the other!
Here are some suggestions of how to put mind-body healing into practice.
Breathing and Meditation
Have you ever thought about your breath? We all do it all day, every day, but rarely acknowledge the value of it. When we become aware of our breath, we become present in the moment, which benefits our whole self. Diaphragmatic breathing is a relaxation technique which is just breathing deeply from our lower bellies. While practicing diaphragmatic breathing, you can add visuals which help the mind and body to communicate and will help you reach a meditative state.
“Draw a Square”
Close your eyes, and begin to take a deep breath while counting to five in your head. While counting, imagine the first line of a square being drawn. Then hold your breath for two seconds at the end of the inhale. On the exhale, draw the second line. Continue this pattern until your square is complete.
Prefer visual aids? Here’s a video.
“Internal Body Images”
If you have an injury or are feeling pain in a certain place in your body, try closing your eyes and imagine that there is a warm light or warm colored light around the place in your body that is causing you pain. On your inhale, the light/color expands. On your exhale, it shrinks back. Imagine this light is healing. Imagine with each exhale that the pain is being washed away.
For more information on different types of meditation including, movement meditation, mantra meditation, and mindfulness meditation go here.
This is an outlet known to be transpersonal psychology . That just means that the active awareness we have while journaling can lead to therapeutic self-discovery. By jotting down thoughts, whether they are random or focused, on a specific event or general feeling, we can gain insight and clarity. This can help us clear away overwhelming thoughts that run through our heads everyday and cause stress.
Journaling initiates communication between your mind and soul, providing feelings of catharsis which help us to express our emotions. Because of the calm feelings that accompany journal writing, our body responds positively.
Do you have a hard time getting started journaling? Here are some tips:
- Get a notebook that you will just use for journaling, and something to write with
- Find a quiet or calming environment
- Center yourself — try some breathing exercises from above
- Label your journal entries so you can refer to them later
- Don’t judge or censor yourself
- If structure helps you, try to write for five minutes a day, or build up how long you are writing for bit by bit
Art therapy enables us to describe our feelings and thoughts in ways that words cannot. When we step back and allow ourselves to express, we may discover things about ourselves we may not have been able to access otherwise.
Here are some ideas that can help you to try out art therapy:
- Get some crayons, colored pencils, or pastels
- Never say you can’t draw! Art therapy isn’t about being an artist. It’s about expressing yourself
- Draw a picture of yourself
- Draw a picture of an area of yourself you feel needs attention; part of body, or feeling
- Draw an image of peace, a peaceful place, a place you would like to return to, or a place you’d like to go
- Draw how you feel in the moment
- Draw an image from a dream
Want to try a guided Art Therapy exercise?
Exercise and Nutrition
When we keep our bodies and minds healthy through exercise and nutrition, we lower stress levels, blood pressure, and we fight off possible long term effects of stress and trauma, like diabetes and heart disease. When we exercise, we benefit from the release of positive endorphins like dopamine and serotonin, also known as the happiness hormones. With summer coming, be sure to get outside. Walking, hiking, biking, and swimming are all wonderful activities which promote mind-body healing. Nutrition plays a large part in this as well! Be mindful of what you eat and keep in touch with the foods that make you feel good and give you energy vs. the foods that tire you out and lead to aches and irritability. What goes into your body is your fuel for living! Choose to live well
Chair yoga for people with injuries and disabilities.
TED-Ed video on food for mental health.
I hope you feel inspired by some of the ways you can promote healthy mind-body connection in your life. Not all of these suggestions will work for everyone. I encourage you to discover new and different approaches to see what fits best for your personality, body, and mind.
Disclaimer: This blog is does not provide medical advice. The suggestions above are based on research and the works of other people.
Seaward, Brian Luke. Managing Stress: Principles and Strategies for Health and Well-Being. Jones and Bartlett, 2014.
Content warning: This blog includes descriptions of sexual assault reports.
Sexual assault cases are extremely difficult to investigate and prosecute in our existing criminal justice system. Reporting a sexual assault takes incredible courage and resilience. Despite this, sexual assault survivors are often the only victims of crimes who are treated as suspects. People who report sexual violence can face professional and personal repercussions, re-traumatization, disbelief, rejection, financial burdens, and physical, emotional, and mental discomfort. Lack of training in law enforcement often leads to misconceptions about crimes involving sexual assault and trauma, often leading to doubts about survivors’ stories. Many people both within and outside criminal justice fields assume that false reports are a regular occurrence.
We’ll attempt to break down those incorrect assumptions by discussing research around false reporting, and using SARC’s 40+ years of experience working with sexual assault survivors.
How many reports are false?
Multiple studies show that false reporting is very uncommon, and some demonstrate it may be even less common than older research suggests. The following information is compiled in an article by Kim Lonsway (2010). The Home Office in the United Kingdom found that only 4% of sexual assaults reported to law enforcement are suspected or found to be false. Research conducted in the United States and Europe show similar rates, between 2% and 6%. Recent U.S. studies by Dr. David Lisak support a false reporting rate of 2%, similar to findings by the Uniform Crime Report (UCR) done by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Even still, numbers from research cannot be taken at face value, as some studies use vague definitions for what constitutes a “false report.” The FBI’s UCR report has historically been one of the most common cited reference points for false reporting data in the United States, despite the flaws in the way it counts false reports.
“Unfounded,” “baseless,” “false” – What’s the difference?
The data in the UCR was provided by law enforcement agencies across the country. The report marks cases as ‘cleared’ in three ways: by arrest, by exception, and as unfounded. “Unfounded” sexual assault cases are not always the same as false reports. An “unfounded” case can be one of two things: a false report, or a baseless report. A “baseless” report is presumed truthful, but does not have all of the factors to charge as a crime. A “false” report is one that should be proved to be untrue through concrete evidence, not simply because of doubt, suspicion, or uncertainty from law enforcement or anyone else.
Baseless reports can indicate that investigators determined there was not enough evidence to pursue an investigation. For example, lack of forensic evidence, or difficulty concretely proving that an act was non-consensual. A baseless report can also indicate that the reported act of sexual violence did not meet the criteria for a criminal charge, such as having an element of “force.”
Why is this frustrating? In our experience working with survivors, most sexual assaults do not leave physical injuries, as coercion and manipulation are some of the most common tactics that offenders use, in lieu of overt force. Offenders often claim that the assault was a consensual sexual encounter, a claim difficult to disprove without concrete evidence. These characteristics of sexual violence, and many others, help explain how cases might be marked as unfounded without being false.
How does this complicate false reporting data? The UCR counts all reports marks as “unfounded” as false, whether they are baseless (meaning the assault likely still occurred) or actually proven to be untrue. This suggests that even the low false reporting numbers the UCR reports may be partially inflated.
What Makes a Report “Suspicious”?
What causes a professional, friend, or family member to doubt someone’s experience of sexual assault? Research laid out in the Lonsway article indicates that the most common characteristics that lead to people to think a report is false are delayed reporting, alcohol or drug use during the event, inconsistencies or omissions in statements, and/or if the survivor did not physically resist “enough.” In actuality, most sexual assault cases include one or more of these factors. In short, the reports that draw the most scrutiny are often the reports that are most likely to be true.
Let’s break down these elements of suspicion. Few survivors report right away. Just some of the reasons for this that we have heard from survivors include feelings of guilt, anxiety, fear, or shock, among others. Reporting is not always safe or accessible to everyone. Inconsistencies in survivors’ statements are common indicators of trauma, and the brain’s struggle to encode and recall memories of traumatic events. Additionally, survivors may initially omit pieces of their story if they fear they may face shame, victim-blaming, or other consequences. It is not uncommon, for example, that a teen may not want to be punished for drinking under age, or an adult may not want to get in trouble for use of illicit substances. Finally, the majority of survivors report some level of “freezing” or tonic immobility during their assault, meaning that their body froze in order to survive and cope with what was happening. Freezing is a very common instinctual response, and often leads to shame and doubt from investigators and others who question why survivors did not “fight back.”
In reality, persons filing false reports are actually less likely to admit to potentially illegal, embarrassing, or questionable behavior, such as drug or alcohol use. False reports are more likely to sound like a “stereotypical rape” — usually involving a stranger, with a weapon, outside, where the survivor fought back, sustained injuries, and reported immediately. Additionally, more often than not false reports did not name a suspect, debunking the assumption that reports frequently made out of malice in an attempt to malign the offender. False reporting may address a need the individual is lacking elsewhere, such as emotional support systems, feeling cared for, access to mental health resources, and much more.
Why Is It Important to Believe Survivors?
Obviously, there are many reasons to believe and trust survivors. Research on sexual assault perpetrators shows that the majority of perpetrators are serial offenders, or someone who has committed more than one act of sexual assault. The less accountable our institutions hold offenders, the more opportunities they afford offenders to cause harm to others.
Beyond this, is the harm that invalidation and blame can cause people who survive sexual trauma. Treating survivors with suspicion serves only to re-victimize them. Persons that come forward seeking help following a sexual assault should be given assistance and support, not mistrust and skepticism. When survivors are met with support and validation, it can lessen the burden of their trauma and improve their ability to move forward and begin to heal.
Some initiatives, like Start By Believing, aim to educate people on the impact of believing survivors from the very beginning. To address these issues in our community, SARC currently offers a half day and full day of training to law enforcement agencies in Washington County. Our goal is that through ongoing training and feedback, the institutions in our community can make reporting a more accessible and safe option for survivors who choose to do so.
If you are interested in offering training for your workplace or school, please contact us at sarc[at]sarcoregon.org or 503-626-9100.
Check out the resources below that Frankie, our intern, used to write this blog, and ask your local law enforcement agencies if they have received training on sexual assault response.
Overview on false reporting from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center: https://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/Publications_NSVRC_Overview_False-Reporting.pdf
More information on the difference between unfounded and baseless reports from End Violence Against Women International:
News Article from the United Kingdom on the realities of false reporting:
More information on false reporting in Europe:
Most information for this article are drawn from this excellent piece by Kim Lonsway:
Lonsway, K. (2010). Trying to Move the Elephant in the Living Room: Responding to the Challenge of False Rape Reports. Symposium on False Allegations of Rape, 1356-1371. Retrieved May 15, 2018.http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1077801210387750
Image by startbelieving.org.
For over 40 years, SARC’s dedicated staff and volunteers have been providing crisis intervention and ongoing support services to folks who have been impacted by sexual violence. Crisis intervention, including over the phone support and in-person response, is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Our operations are funded through government grants and generous donations from private foundations, companies, and individual donors, so that we may always offer our services to clients at no charge.
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Civil Rights Statement:
The Sexual Assault Resource Center (SARC)- Oregon operates its program, services and activities in compliance with federal nondiscrimination laws. No person shall, on the basis of race, color, national origin (including limited English proficiency), disability, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or age, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be otherwise subjected to discrimination under any of our programs.