Sunday, April 1, 2012

Silent Scream

The silent scream
Although this is written with Hamilton County, NY, in mind and thus as a list of "who to call" for more information or help for those who live in Hamilton County, the problem is nationwide and worldwide too, and there are organizations in your area that can provide help.

There is a famous painting by Edvard Munch. You have probably seen it in a magazine or elsewhere. It is titled "The Scream" and shows a person with their hands covering their ears and their mouth wide open. Try to visualize this terrified person as you read ahead.
We who live in or visit Hamilton County like to think of the place as someplace far removed from many of the horrors of the world. That old Blue Line defining the borders of the Adirondack Park is often viewed as a wall that keeps economic development out but is often also seen as a wall that filters out much of the crime we see reported in newspapers and on TV. But think of this. Bad things do happen here and some of these bad things go unreported and never make the news.
Believe it or not, sexual assault, sexually bullying, sexual violence, call it what you will, does happen right here in Hamilton County.
Broadly speaking, Sexual Violence (SV) refers to sexual activity where consent is not obtained or freely given. Any man, woman or child can experience SV The perpetrators are usually someone known to the victim such as a friend, acquaintance, coworker, neighbor, caretaker, or family member.
SV may involve activities that don’t include physical contact between the victim and the perpetrator to those that are brutally violent. SV usually involves some kind of power differential, coercion, threat and/or outright force.
Some examples of the range of SV without physical contact are a sexual form of bullying and include verbal or visual sexual harassment, threats, intimidation and peeping to name only a few. These may occur in school, at work, in the street and online.
SV with physical contact can include unwanted touching, physical force, threat of death by a weapon, drugging, restraints, rape, torture and even murder.
Sexual Harassment is any repeated, unwelcome physical or verbal advance that is sexual in nature. It is a series of on-going, often daily, events that create a hostile environment for the victim. It can also be a one-time event that makes the victim feel threatened or demeaned sexually.
Any of the following behavior may be sexual harassment: leering, wedgies, pressure for dates, pressing or rubbing against a person, obscene phone calls, bra or towel snapping, wolf whistles, lip-smacking, indecent exposure, calling someone "gay" or "lezzie", displaying sexual materials, sexually explicit gestures, animal noises, sexist jokes, grabbing breasts or buttocks, comments about a person's body, flipping skirts or "pantsing" and soliciting sexual services.
Sexual harassment is not flirting. Flirting makes the recipient feel attractive, happy and flattered. Sexual Harassment makes the victim feel unattractive, demeaned, and scared. It is unwanted, one-sided, and illegal.
These are some of the hard, cold facts. Sexual violence and sexual harassment can happen anytime, anywhere, to anyone at home, at work and at the beach. The opportunities to become a victim or become a perpetrator are endless.
All forms of sexual assault and violence can be seen as the silent scream for both the victim and the perpetrator. Silent for both because neither really wants to talk about it.
For the victim, they are embarrassed. They are afraid of what people might say about them. They are afraid they might have done something wrong. Maybe they might fear they will get someone in trouble, someone they don’t want to hurt.
If you think you or anyone can simply suck it up or laugh it off after becoming a victim of sexual abuse, you are only kidding yourself. This is what the perpetrator probably tried to do when they were the victim. Many perpetrators were victims one or more times themselves before they became a perpetrator.
Sexual harassment can be confusing. It helps to talk to someone. If you are being sexually harassed or you want to help someone who is experiencing sexual harassment, contact the Sexual Assault Support Services in your county.
In Hamilton County you can go to Planned Parenthood Mohawk Hudson (PPMH) at PPMH offers free and confidential help for sexual assault victims and their families. The Hotline number in Hamilton County is 1.866.307.4086.
Another source of online information is the Greater Adirondack Perinital Network at They provide links to Relationship/Partner Violence web pages such as the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault at
Whatever you do, don’t silently scream! Call someone. Talk. You are not alone.

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