Strength United discussed Sexual Assault Statistics and Awareness at Valley

Low attendance stymied Valley’s “Wellness Wednesday” during sexual assault awareness month in April.

By Natalie Metcalf, Staff Writer

April was sexual assault awareness month. Students can contact Valley's Student Health Center to gain access to health services and counseling. (Graphic by Natalie Metcalf)

Valley College’s Student Health Education program welcomed Strength United – a non-profit organization at California State University – on Wednesday, discussing sexual assault awareness and providing a safe place for students on Zoom.

Seven people participated in the workshop, including Student Health Education Coordinator Evelyn Picardo and Associated Student Union Secretary Ani Hakobyan. Valley’s Student Health Center therapist Allison Lopez was scheduled to speak at the workshop and answer questions, but was not in attendance. Andrea Ortiz and Lynn Reed, trainee counselors at Strength United, presented at the workshop, making it a point to not say “victim” when referring to someone who has been sexually assaulted, instead using “survivor” to describe them.

“Sexual assault is more of an umbrella term that talks about any physical or non-physical act that is uninvited, unwelcomed or unsolicited toward you or toward someone else from another person,” explained Ortiz.

Ortiz took the floor and reviewed sexual harassment statistics throughout the workshop. According to the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, online sexual harassment can occur in intimate relationships. Studies with college students show that this often occurs in relationships where the perpetrator is violent or sexually aggressive toward the survivor. According to the Power Point presentation, as of 2019, 40 percent of women and 21 percent of men in the United States experience online sexual harassment.

Justice department records indicate 70 percent of stalking victims are women, with 80 percent of the perpetrators being male.

“We want to give you all a general idea of what trauma is, the difference between harassment and sexual assault, what consent is – what it looks like and what it does not look like,” said Ortiz.

Reed and Ortiz discussed rape, with a trigger warning put into place for attendees. According to Strength United’s presentation, out of every 100 rapes, only 46 are reported to police. Only three rapists will spend time in prison, while the other 97 perpetrators may end up walking away without any charges. About three percent of American men experienced an attempted rape or completed rape in their lifetime – that is, one in every 33 men.

The Strength United counselor trainees also mentioned that females from ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attmepted rape or sexual assult.

The trainees then explained that when helping a survivor, it is important to listen and to be respectful.

Picardo discussed Valley’s Student Health Center resources, including a number students can call for behavioral health services and counseling. The number given at the end of the presentation was (818) 763-8836.

“Sexual assault is a crime of violence,” said Ortiz. “So sexual assault equals violence, regardless if physical violence was used.”