Residents from across the Treasure Valley gathered on the steps of the Capitol building in Boise on Wednesday to rally against sexual assault, a problem which they believe has become all too prevalent in Idaho. The group was gathered in honor of Denim Day, a day set apart from others for people across the world to focus on raising awareness for the issue. April has also been designated as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Beatrice Black, executive director for the Women's and Children's Alliance, told the group of about 35 that "forced sex in any case is unacceptable and is called rape." Black said that many teenagers don't understand that notion. She also warned rally-goers of the dangers of emotional and psychological abuse, which can be used by one member of a relationship to exert complete control over the other.
Black asked protesters to combat sexual assault in the community. "You call into question when you see actions that are inappropriate," said Black. "Do not allow violent behavior to go unnoticed." She also encouraged people to spend money only at businesses or on products that use appropriate advertising practices and that don't "dehumanize" women and children in ad campaigns.
Kevin McTeague, executive director for Family Advocacy Center and Education Services (FACES), told a stirring story of sexual assault and abuse and laid out the intergenerational effects the problem has had on members of his family, who, he said, have had their lives "blown apart" by violence. According to McTeague, his sister was a victim of physical and sexual assault, which had an extreme negative impact on the life of her son.
"It can affect any family," said McTeague. "It is not just something that poor people experience."
Kate McGuire, a local radio personality, emceed the event, and said that there no gray area when it comes to sexual assault.
"This is definitely something to take a stand on," said McGuire.
Following the event, Black told IdahoReporter.com that if she could deliver one message to those suffering in an abusive relationship, she would say that "you are not alone." She encouraged those who might be victims of relationship violence to get help and call a hotline for help to end the suffering. She also commented on Sen. Brent Hill’s, R-Rexburg, bill designed lower the age of consent for teens who engage in sexual activity. Advocates for the measure, which has received approval from Gov. Butch Otter, said that changing statutory rape laws would keep young men off sex offender lists for life because of a simple mistake. Opponents of the move said that the legislation did not offer adequate protections for young women. Black did not take a position on the specific law, but said that she feels that this issue is extremely complex and that she believes altering the law wouldn’t lead to more violence against women.
State Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise, attended the rally, and said that teens, who are commonly victims of sexual violence, need to learn and use wise judgment when it comes to sexual matters. She also commented on Hill’s legislation, saying that she was torn over the issue, but ultimately voted for it because she wanted equality for young men.