The world can be a dangerous place, but why is it a woman's place to be cautious and carry Mace? Here is the scene. You are walking home with a key gripped tightly in your hand, only one earphone in and a friend has your location. You check your surroundings and walk fast. Does this sound familiar? Women know this system all too well, but it is not bullet-proof.

We are taught from a young age to always be aware of our surroundings, to be careful of what we wear and avoid being an easy target. A simple Google search pulls up thousands of safety tips for women, pink self-defense key chains and survival guides in the event you are kidnapped. Of course, anyone could be a victim of crime and fear of going places alone should not have to be a concern for anyone, but according to the World Health Organization, women are more likely than men to be subjected to physical and/or sexual violence.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. This month we should take the time to educate ourselves on this issue and strive to contribute to its decline. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women reported completed or attempted rape, almost 80% of victims were raped before age 25 and to hit even closer to home, one in four college undergraduate women in the U.S. are sexually assaulted.

Sexual assault and rape are extremely under-reported. People and the media tend to victim blame women and sympathize with the criminal, usually making the point to reference the victim's clothing, sobriety and behavior.

Contrary to common belief, no one asks to be assaulted or raped. Sexual violence is never the victim's fault. No amount of reasoning gives anyone a free ticket to harm another human. Furthermore, assault and rape are crimes, not misunderstandings. If someone commits these crimes, they should go to jail. It is that simple. However, victim blaming and disbelief are the primary reasons criminals get away with harming others.

Furthermore, crimes against Indigenous women are under-investigated and their statistics prove to be far more drastic than those of other American women. For example, according to Kiara Alfonseca with ABC News, "The Justice Department also found that Native women are victims of murder over 10 times the national average." Half of Indigenous women will be a victim of sexual assault and rape in their lifetimes, according information gathered by USA Today News through an 18-month investigation into prosecutions of sexual assault on tribal lands.

Sexual violence is a cruel and growing disease affecting every group of people regardless of gender. It is not gossip or conspiracies but a horrific reality which too many victims have faced. Instead of victim blaming and gaslighting, we should take this issue seriously. These crimes do not just happen in faraway places, but happen in homes and neighborhoods and to people we know. If we can teach women to carry Mace, then we can teach everyone that sexual violence is a crime.

If you or a loved one has fallen victim to sexual violence or assault, contact The National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or Mississippi State University's Safeline at 662-325-3333.

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