Sexual assault on the rise

Numerous resources step forward to aid the community


Marin Nielsen

Majority minors: During tour, Executive Director Lori Vanderburg shows an exam room within Dawson Place. Though they offer services to any age of individual, the staff the staff Dawson Place see a majority of kids aged 7-12. After their exams, patients are invited to throw a sticky hand onto the ceiling of the exam room, creating an impactful visual showing them they are not alone. “90-95% of sexual violence happens with someone you know. Somebody at your Thanksgiving table, somebody at your Hanukkah celebration, whatever it is,” Vanderburg said in reference to their largest largest demographic.

Marin Nielsen, Editor in chief


With the numerous high profile cases surrounding sexual assault, the topic is becoming more widely spoken of than ever before. What we aren’t talking about, though, is the continued existence of sexual assault within our own community and how that affects our family and friends.

Sexual assault in general is statistically shown to be concentrated around young children being taken advantage of by an older family member; however, there is still a surprising number of teenagers affected, even within our own school. Student Support Specialist here on campus, Jennifer Hudson, says that on average she reports 6-7 sexual assault allegations within Lake Stevens High School annually. Because all teachers and administrators are mandated reporters, Hudson speaks with each of these individuals and is required to submit a form to law enforcement and sometimes Child Protective Services with the information the student is willing to disclose.

If a student is assaulted by another individual on campus, counselors can make accommodations in order to protect the victim.

“They’ll end up on maps,” said Hudson. “Their designated routes will not run into each other and there will be strict behavior contracts around interaction with each other and each other’s friends, where the survivor or victim would be instructed to do x, y and z if she or  he felt unsafe, and the person that did the wrong thing would be instructed to stay out of that person’s life, that person’s path, if they see them to turn around and walk away, and to follow any restraining order to the ‘T’.” Even if legal action is not taken, the victim can still request accommodations from the school which may be granted under certain circumstances. For those who report an incident to Hudson, she can refer one to Dawson Place, a non-profit advocacy center in downtown Everett.

Dawson Place is a one stop shop for anyone affected by sexual and/or physical assault. They offer examinations, legal help, counseling and other services in order to best help the community. Though they see a concentrated number of young children who have been assaulted by a family figure, they are happy to offer services to any age of individual, including teenagers.

“Avoidance is a symptom of post traumatic stress disorder. So teens often, without knowing that they are showing signs of post traumatic stress disorder, will avoid talking about it, reporting it, showing up for therapy, all those kinds of things,” Executive Director Lori Vanderburg said.

Those working at Dawson Place encourage victims to come forward about their assault sooner rather than later as they can better assist someone. However, if one does not want to pursue legal action or continue speaking about their experience at the moment, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, Bob Langbehn is able to help. “Sometimes it happens that the victim will say ‘I can’t talk about this and I can’t do this right now’ and so we’ll decline it for now and things like that… As long as the statute of limitations hasn’t run out we have the ability to prosecute [at a later date].”

Speaking from a legal standpoint, Langbehn also defined what it means to obtain consent. “Consent needs to be explicit. When you talk in everyday terms people think that you get to do things unless somebody says no. That’s not the way the law works and that’s where a lot of defendants get tripped up… It can be verbal, it can be nonverbal, it can be whatever it needs to be but it needs to be explicit.” When one does not obtain explicit consent as Langbehn made clear, one is at risk for committing sexual assault. Even when in a grey area, one should take steps to make sure that both parties are at an understanding. The words no do not need to be said out loud for one to be nonconsenting. Screaming, crying, pushing someone away and even freezing is all a form of “no” and should be treated as such.

Many victims who have reported their experiences have at some point been to Dawson Place to recieve help like senior Audrey Kristofferson. “We talked while I was at Dawson Place and they gave me a ton of paperwork and information, but I did not have an exam done, but they gave me papers on support groups I could go to and a part of me recovering was about a few months ago I finally got rid of all that paperwork and that kind of signified that like, I’ll never fully be ok, this will always be something that sticks with me, this will always be a fear of mine. I can never face this person again without my knees shaking, my eyes watering and my fists balling up till they are white, and I have nail marks in my hand. But that signified that I’m doing better; he does not control me still, I can go around town, and I can be who I am and who I want to be,” Kristofferson said.

After speaking with another victim of sexual assault, it was clear that a large issue surrounding sexual assault is the blame put on the victim. Many who are victimized are made to feel as if they did not do enough to prevent the assault, whether that blame is internal or external. This blame continues to prevent those affected from reporting the assault soon after, if ever, which is why this recent movement of victims stepping forward has been so impactful.

Though the media is extremely focused on those high profile cases such as Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer, the severity of sexual assault on a national scale has seemingly been under the radar. However, these cases have inspired many to come forward in the #metoo movement and speak out about their own sexual assault experiences. It is unclear to those at Dawson Place if this movement is affecting those within our community; however, Hudson and those at Dawson Place are ready to aid anyone who feels ready to come forward and receive help.