Jackson State University student Brielle Nicole Young, 19, said she was sexually assaulted in May of 2017 and knew her attacker well.
“When it happened, I actually didn’t say anything to anyone,” she said. “I pushed it to the back of my head. I was ashamed, and I didn’t want people looking at me a certain type of way.”
Burdened daily by the attack, she said she finally shared her story with close friends.
“It made me feel dirty and weak in every aspect,” she said. “It made me question myself and wonder what I could’ve done differently to not provoke the situation … I then understood why every story you hear about domestic violence or sexual assault goes unheard.”
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and local law enforcement leaders are trying to create awareness about the crime and it’s survivors.
Vicksburg native Hildon Sessums, 34, is a captain with the Oxford Police Department. When it comes to sexual assault, Sessums thinks said the most difficult challenge is getting victims to come forward. He said it is the police’s job to to educate women of all ages to be aware of their surroundings and look for signs.
Sessums, who became involved with police work after taking a criminal justice class and doing a ride along with a police officer, said the OPD receives an average of 10 to 14 reported sexual assaults per year, but many go unreported.
He said the OPD supports victims throughout the process and becomes their voice when they don’t want to speak up. Sessums said the OPD will be pushing out social media content this month to inform the public about sexual assault issues.
“We just have to be better listeners and advocates for victims,” he said.
The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, also known as RAINN, describes itself as the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN reports that every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted.
On average, there are 321,500 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States, according to the RAINN website.
Those ages 12-34 are the highest risk years for rape and sexual assault, RAINN reports. As of 1998, an estimated 17.7 million American women had been victims of attempted or completed rape.
Young, a Murrah High School graduate, said she aspires to work in public health and psychology. She wants to be an advocate for mental health and domestic violence survivors.
“I want to be successful, walking in purpose, and filled with peace,” she said.
The freshman psychology major said she wants to share her story to help others in toxic relationships and educate those around her.
“Sharing what happened to me revealed the character of the people I surrounded myself with,” she said, “and that opened many more doors of realization for me.”