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Teal Walk draws attention to excessive sexual assault

Teal Walk #1

Teal Walk draws attention to excessive sexual assault

The Behavioral Health staff at Utah Navajo Health System is sounding the alarm, throughout the Utah portion of the Navajo Nation and Four Corners Area, about the disturbing rate of sexual assault and domestic violence.

  In an effort to spread the message even more, a series of 5K run/walk events were held in April at Montezuma Creek, Monument Valley and Blanding. The effort actually began in 2017 with a grant for sexual assault prevention and one run/walk event in Montezuma Creek. According to UNHS MSW, CSW Pfawnn Eskee, sex is such a taboo subject to discuss in our area, the one activity in 2017 was piggy- backed onto a family conference event in Montezuma Creek.

  “Up north they do this in schools and have a presentation about what sexual assault is and ways to prevent it. We knew that wasn’t going to work down here,” Eskee explained. “Number 1, because of transportation. It is hard for people to get somewhere. And number 2, because it is so taboo and nobody is going to show up for that kind of thing. So we thought, ‘what if we have a meal? Maybe that would be enough.’ That didn’t work either,” Eskee added. “We had a round-table event in Montezuma Creek with about twenty people. But a lot of them were our co-workers, who are also members of the community. There were not enough community members outside our workplace that came. would come and we didn’t have to do a presentation. We could do little signs along the walk course that give stats and definitions and say funny things like ‘you did this walk for a free banana.’ It gives them information on ways to report,” Eskee continued. “We also did things this year for children, like posters that were about body safety rules - No one is allowed to touch private areas, no one is allowed to take photos of your private areas, (private areas meaning any place a swim suit would typically cover, including boys/men’s nipples). When we play with friends we play with our clothes on. It’s okay to say no for a hug. That’s a form of prevention for your child to say no to a hug, and allowing them to say no. That’s what the walk is about. It’s a prevention aspect for us,” she added.

  Eskee said this year’s events were successful with 144 people attending in Montezuma Creek, 150 in Monument Valley, and 121 in Blanding. Last year’s event in Montezuma Creek drew only 101 people.

  “I think it’s great that so many people came out this year,” Eskee said. “We did our event in Blanding with the aide of San Juan County EMS. UNHS EMS has helped with past walks. They’ve been great. They make the route, they put up all the signs for our route, they load everything and pick up trash. Shawn Begay from UNHS Family Spirit also helped and had some UNHS nurses help out. It’s been a collaboration with other departments,” she noted.

  When asked how successful UNHS has been in bringing the severity of sexual assault to the public, Eskee said it’s been a slow process. Paperwork and statistics are hard to find and many adults don’t report. There’s not enough information out there and not enough resources out there. There’s not enough people capable of doing this type of work, or willing to do this type of work because it is hard, she noted. 

  “It’s very emotional and very tiring on people. But even in the first year a lot of women have come in to talk about their experience,” she explained. “I’m so grateful that they feel comfortable enough to want to tell me about their experiences. It’s hard, as a working employee at UNHS.

  “It’s hard to get statistics and we lose numbers. The Utah strip of the Navajo Nation has no numbers. When doing research for the previous grant, numbers indicated that in 2015 there were only 12 rapes that year. I talked to women, and there were more than 12 in a month or two that said they got raped. Those were not reported,” Eskee stres-sed.

  She said the goal is to get the word out that sexual assault, rape and child abuse is rampant in our area and even though we’re not talking about it, it’s still going to happen. She said the important thing is to teach children about consent. The simplest things like, ‘it’s okay to say no to a hug.’ If you’re forcing them to hug someone they don’t want to, you’re making it easy for a perpetrator to say, ‘do this for me.’ Even though the child doesn’t want to do it they’ll do it because an older person in charge is telling them to do it. 

  You can also teach simple things like asking for permission (consent), letting them have privacy, teaching them what their body parts are called, and asking them to think of people they trust and feel comfortable with, Eskee explained. Also, letting them know that when something they don’t feel comfortable with happens, they have people who will BELIEVE them and help them. Teach them to feel comfortable taking about sex organs. Being comfortable talking about condoms and sex makes a huge difference. If you don’t feel comfortable find someone who is, get your child educated and comfortable being able to talk to someone about what’s going on with their body. 

  “I want women, men, anyone to know they can come into behavioral health and talk to a therapist. It doesn’t have to be ongoing but we prefer it to be. Although they can just come in that one time,” she said. “I want them to know that there are services available. They can get a sexual assault nurse examination at Blue Mountain Hospital in Blanding, in Shiprock, in Zuni, in Farmington, in Fort Defiance, in Page, in Flagstaff and in any big city. The best thing to do is to report it. Even though it may not go anywhere, at least it’s on record. And even if they get an examination they don’t have to report it if they are an adult. They can get the examination done and keep it to themselves. In case one month, two months, even a year from now, if they want to report it, they have that evidence there. The best is to go within 72 hours of a sexual assault/rape occur

  “We knew a lot of people do marathons and 5K’s and 10K’s. So we thought we could do a community event like this. We knew people ring, although you can always get an examination done at any time. 

  “I want to let people know that if they have been touched, raped or cat-called, to tell somebody. And if you hear your friend cat-calling another girl, stop them. Part of the rape culture is cat-calling a woman,” Eskee continued. “That’s not okay. Even learning about the basics of sexual assault will help. If someone sends you a nude photo and you didn’t ask for it, that’s sexual assault. If someone flashes you, that’s sexual assault. Just knowing those basic things can help. I talk to so many high schoolers who don’t know that when that guy touched them, like spanked their butt, that was sexual assault. That was not okay. Something they could tell someone else to report. Just knowing those basic things and speaking up if you see or hear something. Report it.”

  For more information about how to recognize and report sexual assault, contact Pfawnn Eskee, or any UNHS Behavioral Health Therapist at 435-651-3741.