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April 24th, 2009
HCWC raises sexual assault issue

A lecture on the Hays County courthouse lawn, among other activities, raised the issue of sexual assault in an afternoon of events. Photo by Sean Batura.

News Reporter

San Marcos residents and others took part in the nationwide observance of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month by gathering Friday at the Hays County Courthouse Square for an afternoon of art, music and public dialogue, all sponsored and organized by the Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center (HCWC).

HCWC Sexual Assault Prevention Coordinator Kelsey Holt, who teaches male and female classes for the Hays County Juvenile Detention Center’s Boot Camp program, participated in the seven-member panel discussion that afternoon. She said her experience indicates most people still view some instances of sexual assault to be partially the fault of the victim if the victim is female and scantily-dressed at the time of the incident.

“That’s the mentality — that because you’re a woman, you either need to be with a man so he can protect you or you need to know what the right way to act is so you don’t tempt men into sexually assaulting you,” Holt said.

Holt said rapists are not made overnight, but become so through a gradual process involving the acceptance of stereotypes and power inequality. She said one video game has a particularly negative influence on the young: Grand Theft Auto, in which Holt said players can sexually assault and kill prostitutes, who are usually depicted as women of color. Holt said boys and girls 12 and younger are equally likely to be sexually assaulted.

Said panelist and Central Texas Medical Center Nurse Janie Mott: “As a nurse, the biggest challenge I’ve found is with my patients. They say, ‘we don’t know what to do, we didn’t know who to go to, who to call.’ And again, it’s just education, education, education. I think we need to be educating them younger and younger. We need to know that it’s oikay — you don’t wait 96 hours, or you don’t wait 72 hours, you tell (the authorities) right away. And I think the only way to get them to know that is through education and things like this (event), things like — yesterday we had a health fair at the hospital (and) I had sexual assault prevention table.”

Panelist and Texas State University Case Manager Michael Beckham said victims of sexual assault are more likely now than in the past to come forward and seek justice because psychological counseling has lost much of its stigma, though he said the country has a long way to go.

“We’re a very sexual society, but we don’t talk about it in the home,” Beckham said. “We don’t talk about it amongst ourselves … Objectifying is one thing, but actually having a discussion about it is another. So, to me, being able to get that open dialogue is the true, true challenge,” said Beckham.

Panelist and Hays County Sheriff’s Office Detective Jeri Skrocki spoke about the need for law enforcement personnel to avoid treating sexual assault victims differently depending upon the victim’s gender or sexual orientation.

“I just tell people ‘you need to get over yourself,'” said Skrocki. “It boils down to, you’ve got to do the best for that individual.”

The other panelists included San Marcos Police Department Victim Services staffmember Roya Williamson, Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office Detective Angela Allred, Men Against Violence officer and sexual assault survivor Eric Wheeler.

Singer/songwriter Steve Power, who performed at the courthouse that day, related his own family’s struggle with the issue of sexual assault. Power said during his daughter’s studies at the University of Wales, she was assaulted by her date in her dorm room. Power said his daughter managed to fight off her attacker with a large glass full of coins.

“A British pint glass is quite a thick beer glass,” said Power. “It was on the night stand, and she clocked him across the head with it. Fractured his skull, sent him to the hospital for about three months … She pressed charges, so when he got out of the hospital, he went straight to jail and did several months. I didn’t know that it had happened, and (when I found out) it kind of explained a lot of other stuff later on.”

Power said the incident negatively affected his daughter’s confidence and self-esteem, though talking to her loved ones about the incident seemed to help. Powers said it was many years before he learned about it.

“These stories are important,” said Power. “These are daughters who have dads … Everything happens to ‘other people.’ But we are the other people. Everybody is ‘other people’ to somebody.”

The sexual assault-themed art displayed on the courthouse lawn was created by artists from San Marcos, San Antonio, Austin, Fort Worth and Maine. Musical acts included Joe Rodriguez, Amanda Lepre and Temple Ray.

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