April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). The goal of SAAM is to raise public awareness about sexual assault and educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence. Sexual assault is any form of unwanted sexual contact, including words and actions of a sexual nature against a person’s will and without their consent.
Nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the United States are victims of rape. Anyone can experience sexual violence. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many victims experience sexual violence before age 25.
Sexual assault is often not reported. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, 68% of sexual assaults between 2008 and 2012 were not reported. When the crime is reported it is unlikely to lead to an arrest and prosecution. Those who do report sexual assault may experience victim blaming and scrutiny.
Sexual Violence impacts the victim, family and friends, communities, and our entire society. Victims can have a number of short term and long term reactions to sexual assault including guilt, shame, and fear, and development of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. Victims may take time off work and incur medical expenses to cope with their trauma. The impact of sexual violence may stay with victims for the rest of their lives.
If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual violence find services and resources through the crisis hotline 1-800-656-4673, National Center for Victims of Crime Service Directory, Michigan Coalition to End Domestic & Sexual Violence, and local sexual assault centers.
There are many ways to raise awareness of sexual violence and be part of the solution:
- If you see something, say something. Individually we can intervene to stop problematic and disrespectful behavior.
- Promote and model healthy attitudes, behaviors, and relationships.
- Believe survivors of sexual violence and help them find support and resources.
- Create and strengthen policies to promote safety, equality and respect in your communities, business and organizations.
- Use social media to spread awareness about sexual violence and Sexual Assault Awareness Month #SAAM.
- Donate your time and/or money to a rape crisis center, crisis hotline, or other organization that provide services to victims of sexual assault.
- Wear teal, the official color of SAAM, in April. The teal ribbon is the symbol of sexual violence prevention.
For more information about Sexual Assault Awareness Month and resources on how to prevent and address sexual violence in your community visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.