Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
Our community and our society are becoming more aware of and educated about the issue of sexual assaults. This is, in part, due to high-profile cases that have drawn increasing press attention, including national media stories involving the military, college campuses and the National Football League. This issue is a difficult one, with many facets. But it is one that we must address fully and fairly.
According to whitehouse.gov, “Young women… face the highest rates of dating violence and sexual assault. In the last year, one in 10 teens have reported being physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend. One in five young women have been sexually assaulted while they’re in college. While men compromise a smaller number of survivors, male survivors are no less important.”
Locally, Arlington data shows there were 201 sexually related offenses with reported victims in 2011. As is generally true, victims of sexual offenses in Arlington have been predominantly female.
As a single woman living in Arlington, it is something I think about a lot. A few years ago there were disturbing incidents on Arlington’s recreation trails, one by my home. I made the difficult decision to alter my exercise routine, but was pleased with how the county and citizen groups came together to respond to the incidents and address the broader safety issue.
As many of these crimes are not reported, it is hard to know for sure whether there has been an increase or decrease in assaults from year to year. Yet one thing is clear: in 2015, it is imperative that Arlington’s progressive values guide our work in preventing, raising awareness, and addressing sexual assault.
Fortunately, Arlington County has a history of addressing difficult community concerns, and it is responding to the issue of all-too-frequent instances of sexual assault. For example, during my term (2011-2014) on the Arlington Commission on the Status of Women, one of our top priorities was addressing sexual assault and rape.
One priority was establishing a local hotline for sexual assault incidents. Before now, the county’s only hotline for sexual assault incidents was the Virginia Domestic and Sexual Violence Action Alliance in Richmond. Although answered 24/7, the hotline’s location prevented those in urgent need of an immediate response from being connected with a County Violence Intervention staff person for assistance.
In Arlington’s FY 2015 budget, funding was included for a hotline in Arlington. As chair of the Commission on the Status of Women, I was proud to join organizations like Project Peace in supporting an Arlington-based hotline.
According to the county website, Arlington’s Violence Intervention Program (VIP) provides survivor services including safety planning, hospital accompaniment, or support when contacting law enforcement. The VIP program is also committed to preventing abuse from occurring by providing programs to a broad range of adults and adolescents. The VIP also offers consultation and training to allied professionals on the issue.
Arlington community organizations are doing an excellent job of raising awareness about sexual assault. Project Peace, coordinated by Jo Johnson, addresses violence issues. Caroline Romano, founder of Rally Against Rape, says that she was “outraged by increasing incidents of groping (sexual battery), indecent exposure, street harassment, and rape, and brought together activists to share ideas for combatting sexual violence and to plan Northern Virginia’s first Rally Against Rape and Take Back the Night event.”
Our legislators are also responding more assertively to the issue. Arlington delegation members Del. Rip Sullivan (D) and Sen. Barbara Favola (D) have taken a lead role on legislation in the General Assembly regarding how Virginia universities should address sexual assaults — including whether colleges should be required to allow those reporting sexual assault to take their claims off campus and helping victims who want to make sure that their assault is known to someone even if they do not want to officially report an assault.
These issues are complex, and the problematic Rolling Stone article about the University of Virginia shows that there are no easy answers.
Yet we cannot forget that sexual assault or rape can be devastating experience. Many survivors are never the same after the violation. As we seek to raise awareness and eliminate sexual assault in society, I am confident that we can look to Arlington County’s programs, legislators and community leaders to guide the way in solving this issue. Our core progressive values dictate that we seek to make our community safer for all Arlingtonians, no matter how difficult the challenge.
Krysta Jones is the founder and CEO of the Virginia Leadership Institute, and immediate past chair of the Arlington Commission on the Status of Women.
An alleged shooting threat briefly sent students practicing on a school field indoors tonight.
Good Wednesday evening, Arlington. Let’s take a look back at today’s stories and a look forward to tomorrow’s event calendar. 🕗 News recap The following articles were published earlier today…
(Updated at 6:35 p.m.) Black and Hispanic students remain more likely to be suspended from Arlington Public Schools than their peers, according to new data. Specifically, Black students make up…
Whether it’s T. Swift tickets, cash money, or a prime parking spot, most DMV-area residents agree that time is actually their most valuable currency. A universal experience of car owners…
At Generation Hope, we’re dedicated to supporting teen parents in college as they work toward earning their degrees. We are in need of caring child care volunteers for upcoming events on Saturday, October 21st (in Washington, DC), and Saturday, November 4th (in Arlington, VA). Join our growing volunteer community and support us at an event this fall!
At all of our events, we provide free onsite child care for the children of the teen parents we serve, creating a nurturing environment for the kiddos while their parents learn valuable life skills and build community.
If you enjoy working with children and are looking to make an immediate impact in your community, please visit https://www.generationhope.org/volunteer to learn more.
Join us for Arlington’s biggest civil rights & social justice event of the year. The banquet is back in person at the Arlington Campus of George Mason University.
Our keynote speaker this year is Symone Sanders from MSNBC and former Chief of Staff for Vice-President Kamala Harris.
The Master of Ceremonies is Joshua Cole, former state delegate, NAACP President, and local pastor.
Tickets/seating are limited. Purchase your ticket today! Sponsorship opportunities available.
Live standup comedy starring John F. O’Donnell (Comedy Central)
Friday, October 20
Headliner: John F. O’Donnell
John was a correspondent on the radical comedy news TV show, “Redacted Tonight,” for 5 years. Recently, he released his debut one-hour standup special,