April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and as a forever advocate for this issue, it’s only right that I officially kick off this month (and SAAM’s Day of Action) by providing statistics that will clue you in on why awareness through education, prevention and intervention is so critical. This is an issue that affects all people regardless or gender, age, race, social class, religion, ability or profession.
The statistics are alarming, but they are what continue to fuel my passion for this epidemic.
In case you did not know…
- Sexual Violence includes other acts beyond rape; such as child sexual assault and incest, sexual assault by a person’s spouse or partner, unwanted sexual contact/touching, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation and trafficking, exposing one’s genitals or naked body to other(s) without consent, masturbating in public, and watching someone in private acts without their knowledge or permission
- In 2014, there were over 284,000 reported rapes/sexual assaults. This doesn’t include over 900,000 reports of intimate partner violence.
- Nearly 1 in 5 women have experienced rape or attempted rape at some time in their lives. (Black, 2011)
- Nearly 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men have experienced sexual violence victimization – other than rape – at some point in their lives. (Black, 2011)
- 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men were sexually abused before the age of 18.
- More than 80% of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows – over 40% being a friend or acquaintance, 25% being an intimate partner and 5% being a relative.
- Sexual assault is highly under reported. Approximately 68% of assaults are never reported to law enforcement.
- Why? On average, 98 out of 100 rapists will never see a day in jail.
- Every 8 minutes, Child Protective Services responds to a report of sexual abuse.
- Every 107 seconds another American is sexually assaulted.
- Common effects of rape or sexual assault include PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), Depression and Dissociation.
With these statistics, among countless others, awareness, education and most importantly, prevention is critical. If you ask anyone who works in this area or acts as an advocate, I’m sure we’d all say that we’d love to have a different job or passion. In a perfect world, we won’t need shelters or campaigns or counseling – we’d be able to close our offices and turn them into community center or coffeeshops!
Unfortunately, that isn’t our reality. There are many ways that you can get involved, both for SAAM and all year round to end this epidemic. Here are a few:
- Gain Knowledge and Spread the knowledge. It alarms me how much intimate partner violence affects almost everyone around us, yet many people are not aware of the prevalence of violence. These stats should upset you and hopefully push you to action. There are tons of resources and research material out there!
- National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence
- National Sexual Violence Resource Center
- No More Campaign
- National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma and Mental Health
- National Network to End Domestic Violence (I’m interning here this summer with the Development & Communications Team! Post to come.)
- List of State Coalitions – For resources, agencies and education opportunities in your state.
- Find out what events are going on in your city.
- Heads up! Denim Day is April 27th! For the past 17 years, Peace Over Violence has run its Denim Day campaign on a Wednesday in April in honor of Sexual Violence Awareness Month. The campaign was originally triggered by a ruling by the Italian Supreme Court where a rape conviction was overturned because the justices felt that since the victim was wearing tight jeans, she must have helped her rapist remove her jeans, thereby implying consent. The following day, the women in the Italian Parliament came to work wearing jeans in solidarity with the victim. Click here to learn more.
- Volunteer at your local shelter or advocacy center. Hotlines get busy, child care is needed, people need business attire to go on interviews and begin a new life. Check out your state coalition website for a list of shelters or agencies, and find out how you might serve them. If you’re a consistent volunteer, it makes the job of the advocates so much easier…trust me, I know 🙂
- Be Social – Social Media is by far one of the best things to happen in our generation for campaigns and awareness. Your support is only a tweet away. Use tweets, posts, and status updates to spread the word about #SAAM
- Be a listening ear to survivors – Listen, Believe and Support! Check out this article I wrote on helping survivors of sexual assault.