Parkland offers help to those affected by sexual assault

EvyJo Compton

Staff Writer

Sexual assault is taking advantage of another person sexually. Different generations, genders, and ages all have different definitions of sexual assault, but the truth is, any type of non-consenting sex is sexual assault.

“According to the law-books, they define sexual assault as a person who commits sexual assault, commits an act of sexual penetration by use of force or threatening of force,” Ben Boltinghouse, a four-year police officer at Parkland, says. “It can also be those who know that the victim cannot understand the nature of the acts—someone who is mentally handicapped or someone who is incapacitated by drugs or alcohol, or if one is unconscious.”

Sexual assault does not have a type, location, or time—anyone can be affected by sexual assault, says Boltinghouse.

“You are more likely to be sexually assaulted by someone you know than a stranger—a colleague, supposed friend, or even a family member,” he says.

“The victim gets affected the most, mentally, physically and emotionally, but the people around the victim are also affected. It could be that you know someone who has been sexually assaulted, and it has an effect on you, or a family member that was assaulted…It really can radiate out to those around the victim, and cause them harm as well. This is why sexual assault is such a horrible crime,” Boltinghouse says.

Sexual assault can happen anywhere, and at any time. This can include college campuses, although “Parkland is unique in this situation, as we don’t have dorms,” Boltinghouse says.

“A lot of times sexual assault happens in dorms, or where students live like in multi-person houses,” Boltinghouse says. Although he does admit “there are a few occasions where it can happen in [Parkland] building[s]—after class, or in a private setting. Those are less likely to happen, compared to home settings.”

Legally, sexual assault is not just one charge. There are varying degrees of assault, and with each increase of the severity of the assault, the charge increases.

“There are aggravating factors such as [if] the person is a juvenile, it becomes aggravated sexual assault, or if the person is a family member,” Boltinghouse says. “No matter what, sexual assault is the act of non-consenting sexual acts or penetration; if the person is unconscious, underage, mentally handicapped, a family member, unable to say no…all of these factors will increase the severity of the offense to an aggravated assault or worse.”

Consent is the act of agreeing wholeheartedly to a sexual act. Consent can be given and retracted as often as one sees fit, or is comfortable with acts.

Consent has to be followed, and means if an individual agrees one time and disagrees another time the parties involved must respect the retraction of consent.

“I think it’s likely that [there are] younger generations that see a gray area,” Bolting-house says. “It can be like someone and their partner, doing a sexual act, and consenting the first time, and then not saying no the second time, because they think that if they have said yes once, they have to say yes again. That is not the case.”

“You can always give and retract consent as often as you want throughout a relationship. If people were more educated on what consent is—how to give and retract, as well as how to respect said consent—we wouldn’t have this gray area that leads to so many assaults.”

There are many ways that people can educate themselves about sexual assault. This includes from organizations like RAINN and RACES, as well as attending seminars about sexual assault.

“There is an organization called RAINN; Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. They do a lot of anti-rape, abuse, etc—they do a lot of work with educating people, but really it matters what is taught at home. Ideally, it would be a conversation held within the family. It could be supplemented through proper sex-ed classes in school, as well as seminars as you get older,” Boltinghouse says.

“Sometimes, media can help and hurt sexual assault, especially with how they portray both sexual acts and assault. It can really shape younger generations ideals about sexual assault.”

Sexual assault does and can happen to anyone. It is a crime punishable by law, and if anyone is affected by sexual assault, they have clear legal recourse.

“If anything happens to students here, they need to come forward and report it,” Boltinghouse says. “This isn’t just about going through the legal process, but it really is about the healing process after such a traumatic event. I am concerned that people are too afraid to take that first step, because they are afraid to be blamed, ridiculed or made fun of, and the truth is, we don’t want people to be afraid. We want to make it clear it is never the victim’s fault, and that they should always reach out for help.”

If you or anyone you know has been sexually assaulted, call 911. If it is on campus, it will either be directed to Parkland Public Safety, or you can contact them at 217-351-2369 or in room A160.