‘You are not alone’: Sexual assault survivors speak out at Yakima protest

Sexual Assault Survivors Yakima

YAKIMA, Wash. — Sexual assault survivors took to the sidewalks Monday night in Yakima to raise awareness and demand their voices be heard.

Sierra Hutton, 19, organized the event to make sure sexual assault survivors are not forgotten amidst other issues dominating the news cycle.

“People aren’t really focusing on it a whole lot but I think people need reminded of it,” Hutton said. “This is important and it happens every day.”

Hutton was joined by more than a dozen other people, most carrying signs saying “I believe survivors,” or “Boys will be held accountable.” Others wrote chalk messages on the sidewalk, including “No means no,” and “Nobody asks what my rapist was wearing.”

“There is at least one person that everybody knows who has been a victim,” Hutton said. “I know a lot of people who are victims of sexual abuse and I’m a victim of sexual abuse as well.”

Hutton expressed her frustration at the continued backlog of sexual assault kits, insufficient prosecution of sexual abusers and other issues regarding the criminal justice system’s treatment of sexual abuse.

“It’s frustrating and it’s really disappointing,” Hutton said. “I want the victims to have the justice that they deserve.”

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Someone is sexually assaulted every 73 seconds in the United States
  • More than 1 in 3 women will experience sexual violence involving physical contact during her lifetime
  • Nearly 1 in 4 men will experience sexual violence involving physical contact during his lifetime
  • Ages 12-34 are the highest risk years for rape and sexual assault
  • About 3 out of every 4 sexual assaults go unreported
  • Out of every 1,000 sexual assault perpetrators, 995 will go free:
    • 230 of those sexual assaults are reported to police
    • 46 of those reports lead to an arrest
    • 9 of those arrests get referred to prosecutors for charges
    • 5 of those cases where a defendant is charged will lead to a felony conviction
    • Less than 5 of those defendants who are convicted of a felony will serve jail time

“This indicates that this problem is bigger than one person, one gender, one sex,” Hutton said. “This is a human problem.”

Hutton further addressed the crowd of people who came to support sexual assault survivors, saying:

“Our experiences might be different, but we are all here for the same reason. We have all felt like we are the only ones who have been assaulted, harassed, stalked or abused. We have all felt like we won’t be believed or trusted. We know what it feels like to be alone. You are not alone. We are not alone. We are survivors. I am sorry to anyone who has experienced any type of sexual assault. I am sorry to anyone who fears that it could happen to them or that it could happen again or who fears that it could happen to their best friend or a family member. I’m sorry that we have to live in a world where we fear these types of things.”

Hutton said the best thing most people can do to help survivors of sexual assault is to educate themselves.

“Do your research,” Hutton said. “Talk to people that you know could be a victim of it, get their side of the story…Be an ally.”

While people being informed about the prevalence of and issues surrounding sexual assault won’t fix all the problems, Hutton said it’s a step in the right direction.

“It’s not going to go away easily but if people pitch in together and do movements like this and do protests and they bring awareness to it, I think that we can stop it,” Hutton said.