Stand up together for what is right | Editorial

Every two minutes, an American is sexually assaulted.

Think that doesn’t happen here? You’re wrong.

For some who are assaulted or raped, they never utter a word. For others, like Danika and Ariahna on Orcas, they bravely faced ridicule from peers and community members to tell the truth.

After reporting on the case’s progress in court, an online debate started up on our website.

Tyler Jensen commented, “Wish people new the real story, little girls did a great job of ruining someone’s life rather than face their own problems. Then have the nerve to disrespect his family to sell their lie and what not. Shameful.” Danika and Ariahna say comments on personal Facebook pages were even more extreme.

Other islanders defended the girls. Kathy Janssen wrote, “A lot of the parents are who supply these parties with drugs and alcohol. I raised three kids (not perfect by any means) on Orcas and they were honest (as much as I could take anyway). Many of the parents on the island do not care if their kids drink, drink and drive or do drugs (especially pot, it’s normal). Rape IS rape…. at any age. If she’s passed out it should be an unspoken ‘no.’”

In addition to online bullying, the young victims experienced harassment from adults and peers. One student told a Sounder staff member that the girls were making it up and “liked to party.”

The national news has covered two suicide cases in the last year involving girls who were allegedly raped by classmates and then faced months of ridicule.

We are disgusted by the lack of support and compassion shown to these young women. To hear about our generally loving, accepting community hurling hateful words is completely unacceptable. We come together for many causes, why is this different?

As victim advocate Sandra Burt said, “It takes tremendous courage and inner strength to take on a criminal prosecution.  Adolescence is not a time of great emotional stability, and after a trauma, they need tremendous support.  Being blamed and ostracized in their community is beyond overwhelming.”

We think that rape prevention and sexual assault education must be part of the schools’ curriculum. Parents need to be aware of what can happen when you mix alcohol and older party-goers who can take advantage of teens.  This is a community discussion that must be had. And it’s critical that we educate girls AND boys.

For survivors to come forth and talk about sexual assault is one of the greatest difficulties women and men can face. We should be standing behind these young Orcas women and lifting them up in their hour of need – not punishing them.

24-hour crisis lines for sexual assault

• Orcas, 376-1234

• San Juan, 378-2345

• Lopez, 468-4567