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April: Sexual Assault Awareness & Where We Fit

The month of April is recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) in the United States. The goal of SAAM is to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence. Below is lots of information that may help you to help yourself, someone you know, or your community - all compiled by a Someplace Safe Sexual Assault Advocate. This April, the 2013 Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) campaign centers on promoting healthy sexuality to prevent sexual violence. Sexual violence occurs when someone is forced or manipulated into unwanted sexual activity without their consent. Reasons someone might not consent include fear, age, illness, disability, and/or influence of alcohol or other drugs. Anyone can experience sexual violence, including children, teens, adults, and elders. Those who sexually abuse can be acquaintances, family, trusted individuals or strangers, and of these, the first three categories are most common. What is Sexual Violence? Sexual violence is a broad term and includes rape, incest, child sexual abuse, intimate partner violence, sexual exploitation, human trafficking, unwanted sexual contact, sexual harassment, exposure, and voyeurism. Sexual violence is a social justice issue that occurs because of abuse, misuse, and exploitation of vulnerabilities. It is a violation of human rights and can impact a person's trust and feeling of safety. Acts of sexual violence are not only about control and/or sex, but the rape culture exists, in part, because of disparities in power that are often rooted in oppression. Sexual violence happens to people of all ages, races, genders, sexual orientations, religions, abilities, professions, incomes, and ethnicities. These violations are widespread and occur daily in our communities, schools, and workplaces. Each survivor reacts to sexual violence in her/his own unique way. Some may tell others right away what happened, many will wait weeks, months, or even years before discussing the assault, if they ever choose to do so. It is important to respect each person's choices and style of coping with this traumatic event. Whether an assault was completed or attempted, and regardless of whether it happened recently or many years ago, it may impact daily functioning. Impact on individuals: Sexual violence can affect parents, friends, partners, children, spouses, and/or coworkers of the survivor. In order to best assist the survivor, it is important for those close to them to get support. Local social service providers offer free, confidential services to those affected by sexual violence. Impact on communities: Schools, workplaces, neighborhoods, campuses, and cultural or religious communities may feel fear, anger, or disbelief when a sexual assault happens. Additionally, there are financial costs to communities. These costs include medical services, criminal justice expenses, crisis and mental health service fees, and the lost contributions of individuals affected by sexual violence. Victim Reactions: Victims may experience a wide range of reactions including:
  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Anxiety or phobias
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance use or abuse
  • Low self esteem
  • Guilt, embarrassment, self blame
  • Anger or sadness
  • Fear, distrust
  • Vulnerability
Annually in the U.S. Each rape costs approximately $ 151,423 (b). Annually, rape costs the U.S. more than any other crime ($127 billion), followed by assault ($93 billion), murder ($71 billion), and drunk driving, including fatalities ($61 billion) (d). One in five women and one in seventy-one men will be raped at some point in their lives (a). One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old (c). More than 90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault (b). More than one-third of women who report being raped before age 18 also experience rape as an adult (a). 96% of people who sexually abuse children are male and 76.8% of people who sexually abuse children are adults (e). 34% of people who sexually abuse a child are family members of the child (e). It is estimated that 325,000 children per year are currently at risk of becoming victims of commercial child sexual exploitation (f). The average age at which girls first become victims of prostitution is 12-14 years old and the average age at which boys first become victims of prostitution is 11-13 years old (f). Only 12% of child sexual abuse is ever reported to the authorities (g). Rape is the most under-reported crime, 63% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police (g). Engaging Bystanders: While some forms of sexual violence may not be illegal, such as sexist jokes, catcalling, or vulgar gestures, this does not make them any less threatening or harmful to the person victimized. All these behaviors contribute to a culture that accepts sexual violence. Bystanders can speak up when they witness these actions to foster healthy sexuality and safer communities. Many opportunities exist in daily life where society can prevent behaviors that promote sexual violence. An engaged bystander is someone who intervenes before, during, or after a situation when they see or hear behaviors that promote sexual violence. It is common for people to witness situations where someone makes an inappropriate sexual comment or innuendo, tells a rape joke, or touches someone in a sexual manner. Bystanders might also witness other forms of sexual violence. Bystanders who witness the behavior or hear the comment can intervene in a way that will help create a safer environment. Research has shown that bystander programs can produce positive results by increasing participants' knowledge of sexual violence, decreasing participants' acceptance of rape myths, and increasing the likelihood that they will intervene (Banyard, Moynihan, & Plante, 2007). Engaged bystanders help create healthy communities and help others build safe and respectful environments by discouraging victim blaming, changing social norms that accept sexual violence, and shifting the responsibility to prevent sexual violence to all community members (Tabachnick, 2009). When And How To Intervene: Every situation is different and there is no universal response when intervening to prevent sexual violence. Safety is key in deciding when and how to respond to sexual violence. Every person must decide for themselves the safest and most meaningful way to become an engaged bystander. The following are ideas on how one can maintain safety while being an engaged bystander:
  • If you witness sexual violence, get support from people around you. You do not have to act alone.
  • Practice with friends and family about what you would say and how you would say it.
  • When intervening, be respectful, direct, and honest.
  • Contact your local sexual assault center to see if they offer resources or training on bystander intervention. Visit http://www.nsvrc.org/organizations/state-andterritory- coalitions for coalition contact information or contact www.someplacesafe.info or call Someplace Safe (800)974-3359.
  • If you see or hear something and you do not feel safe, call 911 or contact local police.
Ways To Prevent Sexual Violence: Primary prevention approaches acknowledge that sexual violence is preventable, and this approach seeks to change cultural norms by teaching people to not violate others. Risk-reduction approaches seek to decrease a particular person's risk for victimization, such as a self defense class. Some primary prevention approaches:
  • Be a role model for respectful relationships/behaviors
  • Speak up when hearing harmful comments or witnessing acts of disrespect or violence
  • Create policies at workplaces, agencies, and schools
  • Coordinate community prevention efforts
  • Talk with legislators and ask them to support prevention and victim services
If you have any questions about sexual violence or have been a victim of sexual assault, please contact a Someplace Safe location near you, visit our website at www.someplacesafe.info for more information, or call our 24-Hour Crisis Line at (800)974-3359. References: (a) Black, M. C., Basile, K. C., Breiding, M. J., Smith, S .G., Walters, M. L., Merrick, M. T., Stevens, M. R. (2011). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 summary report. Retrieved from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control: http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/NISVS_Report2010-a.pdf (b) Delisi, M. (2010). Murder by numbers: Monetary costs imposed by a sample of homicide offenders. The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, 21, 501-513.doi:10.1080/14789940903564388 Cullen, F., Fisher, B., & Turner, M., The sexual victimization of college women (NCJ 182369). (2000). Retrieved from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice: https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/182369.pdf (c) Finkelhor, D., Hotaling, G., Lewis, I. A., & Smith, C. (1990). Sexual abuse in a national survey of adult men and women: Prevalence, characteristics and risk factors. Child Abuse & Neglect 14, 19-28. doi:10.1016/0145-2134(90)90077-7 (d) Miller, T. R., Cohen, M. A., & Wiersema, B. (1996). Victim costs and consequences: A new look (NCJ 155282). Retrieved from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice:https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles/victcost.pdf (e) National Sexual Violence Resource Center. (2011). Child sexual abuse prevention: Overview. Retrieved from http://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/Publications_NSVRC_Overview_Child-sexual-abuse-prevention_0.pdf (f) National Coalition to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation. (2012). National Plan to Prevent the Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children. Retrieved from http://www.preventtogether.org/Resources/Documents/NationalPlan2012FINAL.pdf (g) Rennison, C. A. (2002). Rape and sexual assault: Reporting to police and medical attention, 1992-2000 [NCJ 194530]. Retrieved from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics:http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/rsarp00.pdf Hanson, R. F., Resnick, H. S., Saunders, B. E., Kilpatrick, D. G., & Best, C. (1999). Factors related to the reporting of childhood rape. Child Abuse and Neglect,23(6), 559-569 Other References: National Sexual Violence Resource Center. (2010). The impact of sexual violence: Fact sheet. Retrieved from http://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/Publications_NSVRC_Factsheet_Impact-of-sexual-violence_0.pdf National Sexual Violence Resource Center. (2010). What is sexual violence: Factsheet. Retrieved from http://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/Publications_NSVRC_Factsheet_What-is-sexual-violence_1.pdf RAINN, Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network http://www.rainn.org Tabachnick, J., & Klein A. (2011). A reasoned approach : Reshaping sex offender policy to prevent child sexual abuse. Retrieved from the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers: http://www.atsa.com/pdfs/ppReasonedApproach.pdf Finkelhor, D., Hammer, H., & Sedlak, A. J. (2008). Sexually assaulted children: National estimates and characteristics (NCJ 214383). Retrieved from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention: http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/214383.pdf Tabachnick, J. (2009). Engaging bystanders in sexual violence prevention. Sexual-Violence-Prevention.pdf

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