Fighting sexual assault with media and music

"Every two-and-a-half minutes, somewhere in America, someone is sexually assaulted," according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network's website, The group also claims that "44 percent of rape victims are under the age of 18."

Such disturbing numbers call for something to be done to protect today's youth from becoming one of the 44 percent. To that end, Seaspot Media Group, at 1265 S. Main St., and Southeast Youth and Family Services, at 3722 S. Hudson St., are collaborating to create a program designed to assist King County sexual assault victims while educating local youth about sex crimes.

Youth today are bombarded from the media with messages in magazines, music, movies and the Internet, to name just a few. As a result, today's youth-focused, non-profit organizations face a difficult task when it comes to gaining the attention of youth for the programs designed to educate them on how to properly interact with each other.

To make the situation more difficult, non-profit agencies often suffer from limited financial resources that increase the difficulty of spreading the word about their programs to their target demographic. Many non-profits must partner with other groups or businesses to assist in handling the costs of media exposure to their clientele. Southeast Youth and Family Services and Seaspot Media Group are enjoying just such a partnership to bring awareness to the issue of sexual assault.

Forging a partnership

Chukundi Salisbury, who used to sit on the board of directors for Southeast Youth and Family Services, was searching for the right project where the skills of his Seaspot Media Group could best serve his old non-profit friends. Salisbury eventually found, as he describes, "a state grant for a non-profit agency to develop programs and initiatives to address the causes of sexual assault in marginalized communities." He knew Seaspot, Southeast Youth and Family Service, and the grant were a perfect match.

"Seaspot will handle the job of getting the message out to the target demographic of 13-25 year old people of color," said Salisbury about his group's role in the partnership. "Salisbury believes that, "It's not always the message, but the messenger. Some non-profits have lost touch with youth and have difficulty getting them to take advantage of the resources that are available.

"Because Seaspot's focus is urban youth, we can get the message out to them faster and easier. Youth don't always pay attention to a photocopied flyer. They need colors and gloss to grab their attention," Salisbury asserted. "From our concerts to our street and high school teams to our websites and our magazines, we can deliver the message that there is a resource available to victims of sexual assault."

Laying down mix

The most anticipated portion of Seaspot's media blitz is the "No Means No" mix tape currently being developed. Aimed for a spring release, Seaspot is taking submissions through Feb. 15. Call 206.320.7768 or check out for more information. Organizers hope this musical effort will bring plenty of attention to the issues surrounding sexual assault.

"Our current media desensitizes sex in general to the youth of today. Much of the music and videos that youth watch - not just rap - glamorizes sexual activity. Many of the songs depict mistreatment of females," Salisbury asserted. "Youth see and hear these depictions and begin to behave in the same manner. We want to let youth know that victims of sexual assault are not at fault, [and] conducting yourself in a manner consistent with personal empowerment can help reduce one's chances of becoming a victim. It's all about empowerment and respecting yourself."

In addition to the mix tape, Salisbury's team has other, more direct mediums in which to spread the word of sexual assault awareness.

"I have high school and street teams that canvass neighborhoods and events spreading the word about the program at Southeast Youth and Family Services," he said. "We are currently in an online phase where we have launched a website,, where youth can learn more about the 'Respect Yourself' campaign and how to submit music for the mix tape. We have put up a page on and used ads in our magazines, 'Jump Off' and 'Seaspot.' In January we will get information out to the community centers."

Using the resource

Between January and September of 2005 there were 182 rapes documented by the King County Sheriff's Department on their website, The 44 percent rule infers that over 80 of these rape victims were under the age of 18. This number does not include domestic disturbances, molestation, sexual harassment or exposure to unwanted sexually explicit images, all of which, according to, fall under the heading of sexual assault.

In Seattle the numbers aren't much better. Between January and November of 2005 there were 176 rapes. Again, this number does not include the previously listed sexual assaults not found in crime statistics. From these numbers it is quite clear that this problem affects hundreds of youth in the Seattle/King County area alone.

Once youth get the message that there is a sexual assault resource available to them, and they seek out that resource, they are referred to Southeast Youth and Family Services. Jeri White, director of this popular, local non-profit agency explains their role as counseling, support, and education.

"The program is not limited to Southeast Seattle, it has a King County focus," White stated. "We will go wherever we have to in order to assist victims or educate youth about sexual assault."

When asked whether or not sexual assault cases are worse in Southeast Seattle, White responded by saying, "Sexual assault may not be worse in Southeast Seattle than other parts of the county. Our focus will be to help those in King County who need the help."

Further investigation of the Seattle Police Department Crime Statistics shows that the number of rapes from January 2005 to November 2005 reported in the South Precinct were 24, or 13 percent of the city total, compared to 21 during the same span in 2004. This comes out to a 14 percent increase from 2004 to 2005.

"Although there have only been a few referrals, we are also working with the Sexual Assault Center and with youth in King County Juvenile Detention. We currently have one trained staff member, but hope to train more as the program grows," White explained. "This staff person is more than happy to go to other non-profits or programs that work with youth to discuss our program here and get youth thinking about the consequences of sexual assault."

When asked why there have been so few referrals, White said victims are often afraid of reporting the incidents for various reasons.

"There is a lot of fear associated with sexual assault: fear of people finding out, fear of pressure for legal action, and fear of being portrayed as weak are just a few," White said. "Youth have to overcome these fears before they are ready to seek help."

Success for White and Salisbury's program will be measured in the people they help and educate. They are also looking at response to the media blitz and the "No Means No" mix tape.

"A lot of people need help," White asserted. "Sexual assault is a crime that knows no boundaries of age, color, economic status, religion, or sexual orientation."

According to White, it was really Salisbury who was the mastermind behind this collaboration.

"Chukundi saw messages in music and videos and how women are portrayed and treated," White said. "He saw how these messages were affecting the behavior of the youth who absorb these messages. Youth need to understand that these messages are only part of Hollywood: They're not real. There needs to be respect for one's self and we all need to possess a good body image."

Richard Maltby may be reached via[[In-content Ad]]