Alderman Vereer's comments on the recent Spring Street sexual assault were inappropriate. Too often our society downplays sexual harm when it is not accompanied by additional physical brutality. Saying that any assault has a silver lining is disrespectful to a victims' pain and may trivialize the harm of sexual contact against someone's will without the use of violent force.
The base harm in sexual assault is the sexual violation, which is a demonstration of power over and disrespect towards a most private and sacred part of an individual, their sexual being. Whether you need hospitalization after an attack or recover in a matter of days on your own, a most horrible violation has occurred. Wisconsin statutes do not require force for an attack to be considered sexual assault; it merely requires it to be without consent. Two men forcing a woman down to sexually harm her is assault, her wounds are sexual and that is all our wise state requires to make it condemnable.
To end sexual violence we must realize how our own attitudes and beliefs might contribute to the problem. Diminishing the sexual harm can discourage victims from reporting if they were not beaten or violated to the point of physical injury, also these attitudes can work to lessen culpability when someone forces themselves on another without needing much force, like in situations where someone is intoxicated, handicapped, sleeping, etc.
While we can all agree that the physical brutality is an additional harm during a sexual assault we must be careful not to dilute the underlying harm. Sexual violence is a wrong against our autonomy and sexuality, which are intricate parts of everyone's lives and identities. How we understand the base harm will influence our community's responses towards eliminating this problem. Sexual contact without consent in and of itself should be what we abhor, regardless of whether physical injuries accompanied the crime.
Laura L Dunn
Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment
PAVE Media Advocate