Saratoga… We Have a Problem
Saratoga County is admired as a perfect picture of Upstate New York. Nestled between the Capitol District and the Adirondacks, it’s a scenic, historical area, with big city attractions embodying a small town feel that appeals to both locals and tourists from around the world.
However, just like any county, we have our challenges. Some are apparent and dealt with publicly and swiftly, others are hidden and unresolved. One of the many reasons why societal challenges persist is because they go undetected. In order to fix a problem, we first must acknowledge it.
In 2012, Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services of Saratoga County (DVRC) served 123 sexual violence victims. Over 25% were under the age of 20. Eighty-three percent were victimized by someone they knew (such as a marital partner, ex-partner, co-worker, peer, or relative).
Not what you expected? Imagine this: According to the United States Department of Justice, only 20% of sexual assault victims ever seek help from an agency like DVRC. What if 123 represented only 20% of the total number of sexual assault incidents in Saratoga County in 2012?
National statistics indicate 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men experience sexual violence in their lifetime. By the math, 30,000 Saratoga County residents may be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Clearly, the prevalence of sexual assault in Saratoga County is a problem.
DVRC collected 123 pairs of shoes to represent each sexual assault victim served in 2012. Throughout the months of April and May, DVRC displayed these shoes in various public places such as Saratoga Spring’s Congress Park, Saratoga County Municipal Plaza, and Saratoga Spa State Park. One hundred and twenty-three shoes do not go unnoticed. At each location, photos were taken to memorialize the visual extent of sexual assault in Saratoga County. You can see all of the photographs taken in the following link: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.536888746374174.1073741826.406790249384025&type=3
If we were to walk in these shoes, what would we learn?
Sexual assault is any sexual act done against someone’s will. Sometimes physical force is used, but more often than not, there is coercion involved; i.e., the victim feels intimidated by his/her perpetrator. It may be because of the perpetrator’s physical stature, some threat made towards the victim or their family, and/or fear of what the perpetrator is willing to do to get what they want. The perpetrator takes control of the victim’s body, the ultimate violation. [Sex, one of the most intimate contacts one person can have with another person, is used to exert power.]
Sexual assault can happen to anyone of any race, class, culture, or gender. It is never the victim’s fault, no matter the circumstances. Sometimes, a victim may blame themselves for not handling the situation differently or missing red flags. Of course, everyone makes mistakes and misjudgments; but does that justify rape?
Sexual violence, including rape, is a social problem, and social problems persist in the absence of social change. Social change starts with a shared awareness, and only then can it move into action. You can help end sexual violence in Saratoga County – call 518-583-0280 to get involved.
DVRC provides individual counseling, advocacy with medical services, law enforcement, and other agencies, and a 24-hour hotline for victims of sexual assault. DVRC works with victims and family and friends to provide information, support and resources to help them move forward in their lives. For more information, please call the DVRC office at 518-584-8188. Or call the hotline at 518-584-8188.