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Junior Auxiliary seminar targets rape prevention

Across America, one rape is reported every six minutes, andexperts say of the millions of rapes reported every year, millionsmore go unreported.

But local young women of all races and from several area schoolsare a little more knowledgeable about how to avoid and stopunwanted sexual violence after the Junior Auxiliary’s “EndingDating Violence” seminar held Thursday night at First BaptistChurch.

“I learned just how common date rape is, and I learned whatyou’re supposed to do if you get yourself caught in the situation,”said seminar attendee Katherine Ezell.

Mississippi Coalition Against Sexual Assault Sexual ViolencePrevention and Education Coordinator Wavette Davis told a room fullof teenagers and guardians that under no circumstances are anyunwanted sexual advances to be tolerated from anyone, for anyreason.

“You have a right to wear exactly what you want to wear withoutbeing raped,” she said. “What you wear does not give a manpermission to rape you or touch you inappropriately.”

Davis talked to the women about their rights when dealing withinappropriate sexual overtures – whether it be verbal or physical -and reminded them that one “no” should be enough.

“Any version of ‘no’ means no,” she said. “A woman has the rightto say no up until the very last minute. If you decide this is notwhat you want to do and he continues to do it, that’s rape.”

And rape is not only a situation that occurs at night,perpetrated by a stranger. Davis said young women ages 16 to 19 arefour times more likely to be raped than any other demographic, and75 to 80 percent of those rapes are committed by acquaintances.

“Date or acquaintance rape is rape committed by someone youknow,” she said, adding that there can even be rape between marriedcouples.

The group also discussed the fact that women are not the onlyvictims of rape. Men can be and are raped, and they go through thesame post-traumatic reactions that women do.

But any rape also carries secondary victims: those who love theperson who has been through the traumatic situation. Davis saidvictims and those who love them should remember that rapists usesex as a way to express power and humiliate and control theirvictims.

“Rape is never a victim’s fault,” Davis said. “It is always thefault of the perpetrator: the rapist. If you say no, it should endthere.”

And even when the sexual advances seem nothing more thanannoying, a victim still has the right to report the predator’sbehavior, Davis said. She directed her comment to a table of girlswith a situation at their school where a young man makes sexualcomments.

“Report it. You should be in the principal’s office the nextmorning, and the rest of you should be lined up around the wallswaiting to tell him this,” she said. “It is your duty to stop this.If you see a person like that, it’s your duty to report it.”

Davis reminded the group that if their parents or teachers won’tlisten, there are always higher authorities to go to, even if theyhave to go as far as the police or the state board ofeducation.

And finally, the women discussed ways to avoid rape, such as notbeing alone in isolated places, avoiding alcohol and drugs, andalways being aware of their surroundings.

The “buddy system” can also be a valuable tool against unwantedsexual advances, Davis said. Having a friend, male or female, whoknows when to assist in an awkward situation can be all it takes tomake it home safe at night.

“Make a pact that when you go to a party together, you leavetogether,” Davis said. “Have a sign so when some guy is dancing upon you and he gets too close, your friend knows you mean, ‘You needto come get this off me.'”

And finally, Davis discussed what to do if a rape occurs so thatthe perpetrator can be punished.

“Don’t comb your hair, don’t brush your teeth or change clothes,and especially don’t shower,” she said. “You need to maintain asmuch evidence as possible. If you scratch him, that’s DNA underyour fingernails that can be used against him.”

Junior Auxiliary member Rachel Brumfield said the purpose of theevent was to empower local teens against situations that can changetheir life course forever.

“Our Life Choices Committee is sponsoring this, and it’s allabout helping young teens in our community make the right decisionsin life,” she said.