The death of a ten-year-old Cedar Rapids girl has served as a grim lead-in to April’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month Activities. Tara Wood is the Iowa Sexual Abuse Hotline Coordinator, and says they’re focusing on the victims of assault. She says they’re focusing on the services that’re available to survivors as well as the strength of survivors and their loved ones and the power of healing. Wood says they want to be sure the efforts to prevent sexual assault are aimed in the right direction. She says they want to make sure that the focus on the responsability and accountability for sexual assault stays on perpetrators, “we want to focus that attention on perpetrators instead of trying to explain sexual assault in terms of what could’ve the victim done differently.” Wood says the recent sexual assault of Jetsetta Gage of Cedar Rapids is a good example. She says everyone talks about the things that made Gage susceptible to sexual assault. She says people talk about how Gage was very complimentary, outgoing and very nice. “I think it’s sad sometimes people take that to mean that it’s an explanation as to how it happened and why it happened. And people are saying that the mom is somehow responsible. You know, the focus needs to be on who is really responsible, and that’s the perpetrator in this case.” Wood says trying to find reasons why a victim was attacked are a safety blanket to make us feel more in control — so we feel it couldn’t happen to us. She says, “If we truly wrap our head around this concept that victims aren’t to blame, then we have to admit that there is a potential for us to be at risk as well. And that we might be in a situation where we don’t have control over what’s going to happen to us. And that’s really scary. It’s like taking that safety blanket away from ourselves in our daily lives, and it is scary.” The number for the Iowa Sexual Abuse Hotline is: 800-284-7821.
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