Over 30 pct. Polk residents surveyed have been close to incident of sexual assault

Published 5:20 pm Thursday, January 29, 2009

According to Steps to HOPE, which provides support for sexual assault victims in the local area, national statistics show that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted by the age of 18.

The Steps to HOPE survey&bsp; found that 36.6 percent of respondents said they do not feel enough is being done by the Polk County community to prevent sexual violence. Nearly 26 percent said they do not know where to receive help for sexual assault.

The survey also found that 13.1 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: &dquo;A woman who is raped while she is drunk is at least somewhat responsible.&dquo;

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Steps to HOPE says an individual is incapable of giving consent and can be prevented from resisting due to physical or mental incapacity, which includes, but is not limited to, the influence of drugs and alcohol.

According to the survey in Polk County, 3.1 percent of respondents agreed with the statement, &dquo;If a woman doesn&squo;t physically fight back, you can&squo;t really say that it was rape.&dquo;

Steps to HOPE says North Carolina statute defines rape as intercourse &dquo;by force, without consent, or with a victim whom the perpetrator knows is mentally disabled, mentally incapacitated or physically helpless. Force includes both phsychological coercion and physical force. In North Carolina, criminal sexual offenses include but are not limited to rape, statutory rape, sexual offense, peeping, sexual harrassment, stalking and indecent exposure, according to the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

Steps To HOPE, located on Ward Street in Columbus, offers programs for the prevention and treatment of both domestic violence and sexual assault. Steps to HOPE offers rape prevention education programming, counseling, court advocacy and legal services to those affected by sexual violence. For more information, call 894-2340.