Center seeking awareness for sexual assaults

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 4, 2002

Sexual assaults can happen anytime, anywhere and to anyone.

To educate communities about what sexual assaults are and how to prevent them, April has been declared Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

According to a report by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety and Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (DPS/BCA), 2,241 rapes were reported in Minnesota in 2000, 1,999 of which were female victims and 242 were male victims. In Mower County, the statistics for 2000 say 29 rapes were reported, as were 34 sex offenses. Of those, 33 were cleared by arrest, which the DPS/BCA says occurs when at least one person is arrested or charged with the commission of the offense.

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Though the statistics for Mower County are much lower than the number of rapes and sex offenses in metropolitan areas, they're still too high.

Jessica Bell the sexual assault victim advocate at the Crime Victims Resource Center in Austin says she hopes "to create awareness that sexual assaults happen everywhere and to let people know rapes aren't always committed by complete strangers. In fact, they're usually committed by someone the victim knows."

However, she says there are some things people can do to protect their children and themselves. "The number one thing is to keep open communication with your child. From the very beginning, let them know they can talk to you about everything," Bell says. She adds it's important to let your children know they can say "no" to an adult, to tell them another person should never touch them or asked to be touched in inappropriate places or anything else that makes them feel uncomfortable. Bell also advises parents to watch for signs that something is wrong with their child-especially if their child doesn't want to be alone with a specific person.

To protect yourself, she says she always tells people "to listen to what I call their 'sixth sense.' If your hair raises up on the back of your neck, listen to that voice that tells you 'no, don't do that.' You have that feeling for a reason."

Bell also says that you "should remind yourself it's OK to say 'no,' even if you're in the middle of something. It's the other person's responsibility to listen to you and they have to respect that. Don't do something you don't want to do because you don't want to hurt their feelings."

Call Amanda L. Rohde at 434-2214 or e-mail her at