Sexual Assault Awareness Month is an opportunity to raise awareness about sexual violence; it’s also a time to support those who have been affected. Sexual violence can happen to anyone, no matter your age, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
But some people are more at risk than others.
And while it’s important to be aware of the risks and ways to prevent sexual violence, it’s also important to know how to support those at risk and survivors of sexual violence.
Let’s take a deep look about those at risk of sexual assault and some ways to support them.
What is Sexual Assault?
Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual behaviour that makes the victim or survivor feel uncomfortable, threatened, frightened or unsafe. It is any sexual behaviour that you don’t consent to.
Consent is when someone freely and voluntarily agrees to participate in sexual activity. Consent can be withdrawn at any time, even during sex. If someone doesn’t consent to sex, then it’s considered sexual assault.
If you are forced into sex against your will or without your consent, this is sexual assault and is against the law. You have a right to say ‘no’ and for that decision to be respected.
Some people call sexual assault ‘rape’ or ‘sexual violence’, but these are actually types of sexual assault. According to RAINN ( Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), there are some forms of sexual assault:
- Attempted rape
- Fondling or unwanted sexual touching
- Forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, such as oral sex or penetrating the perpetrator’s body
- Penetration of the victim’s body, also known as rape
Whatever you might have heard about sexual assault on TV shows or in the news, it’s important to remember that no-one ever deserves or asks for it to happen. 100% of the blame lies with the perpetrator or perpetrators. And it’s also critical to understand that any sexual assault is a serious crime that can have a lasting impact on the victim or survivor.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month
This April Awareness Month is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a time to spread awareness about sexual assault and educate communities about how to prevent it.
Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) is an annual campaign to raise public awareness about sexual assault and educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence.
The goal of SAAM is to increase visibility of sexual assault awareness and prevention, as well as connect people working on the issue. The campaign provides opportunities for individuals, schools and organizations to engage in dialogue about sexual assault, support survivors, educate their communities, and take action against this social injustice.
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) coordinates the national efforts of SAAM. NSVRC provides a range of resources available for free download from its website, including public service announcements, posters, brochures and tip sheets.
The first Tuesday of every April is the SAAM Day of Action. This Sexual Assault Awareness Day is an opportunity to start off the month with highly visible and coordinated actions. You can use this day to help raise awareness in your community, and inspire others to take action in their communities. You can also use this day to create awareness about resources and support systems available in your community.
This year, the Day of Action is April 5th, 2022. Let’s make it a good one!
Those populations at a greater risk of sexual violence
Women and Girls – Sexual Assault Awareness
Sexual violence can happen to anyone, no matter your age, sexual orientation, or gender identity. But women and girls experience sexual violence at much higher rates than men and boys.
In fact, the numbers tell a tragic story: as of 1998, an estimated 17.7 million American women had been victims of attempted or completed rape.
Statistics tell us that lots of women have been victims of rape, and that young women are especially likely to be affected by it. In fact, 82% of juvenile victims are female, and 90% of adult victims are female.
Studies show that females ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to experience attempted or completed rape, sexual assault, or even attempted sexual assault. The situation is even worse for those who aren’t enrolled in college: they’re 4 times more likely to experience sexual violence!
The disabled, especially TBI
People with disabilities are one of the most vulnerable populations for sexual assault. Not only do they face a higher risk of violence, but many are unable to advocate for themselves. For example, a person with a traumatic brain injury may not be able to testify in court due to memory loss.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a common cause of disability; about 21 million Americans have one, and assault causes about 10% of those cases.
But the risk doesn’t stop there: people with any disability, not just TBI, are more likely to experience abuse more than once, which means that survivors with disabilities are at a much greater risk.
As our society continues to evolve, it is important to acknowledge that the LGBTQ+ community faces unique challenges when it comes to sexual assault. Statistics show that LGBTQ+ people are more likely than non-LGBTQ+ people to experience sexual assault in their lifetimes. Not only are they more likely to be assaulted, however, they are also less likely to seek help after an assault has occurred. This is due largely because of discrimination, homophobia, and transphobia.
In addition, those who identify as LGBTQ+ are more likely to be assaulted in rural areas or the South. These areas tend to be less openly accepting towards the LGBTQ+ community than other regions of our country. It is important to consider when discussing these issues that many survivors may share multiple identities, which make it difficult for them to seek and receive help for sexual assault.
Another group that is more vulnerable is the elderly. Especially those who have dementia, as they may be unable to consent to any kind of sexual activity. Imagine being in a nursing home and being abused by a fellow patient. This is a common occurrence that happens all over the world.
What makes this even worse is that these victims are usually not able to testify in court due to memory loss, similar to someone with a TBI. Because of their inability to testify, many of these perpetrators never get charged or convicted of their crimes.
That’s why it’s so important that we remember and acknowledge that for many survivors, especially those who cannot advocate for themselves, asking for and receiving help is only a small part of the battle.
How can we help those who are at the greatest risk?
During Sexual Assault Awareness Month, it’s important to acknowledge the many ways that sexual assault and rape impacts survivors—especially those who are at greater risk. It can be difficult to talk about these issues, but doing so is an important part of the solution.
The first thing you can do is listen and validate people’s experiences without judgment. If someone tells you they have been sexually assaulted, believe them and don’t ask questions like “why were you there?” or “were you drinking?” That is not helpful, because it doesn’t matter what a person was wearing or how much alcohol they had. What matters is that their experience of sexual violence has been validated.
You can also share resources for sexual assault victims such as those of RAINN via social media. It’s important to learn about organizations that help those who have experienced sexual assault so that you can refer people to other resources.
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE, online.rainn.org y rainn.org/es) in partnership with more than 1,000 local sexual assault service providers across the country and operates the DoD Safe Helpline for the Department of Defense. RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help survivors, and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.
Another important action you can take is to speak out when you hear false information about sexual assault or information that perpetuates stereotypes. This could be as simple as pointing out misinformation in a conversation, or something more formal like writing an op-ed for your local newspaper.
Finally,if you are interested in learning more about how you can help survivors, consider volunteering with RAINN or Interact—two organizations dedicated to supporting survivors of sexual violence. By sharing this article with friends and family, you can also spread awareness about how we can all take action against sexual assault and support those who have experienced it.
Best Shirts to Support Sexual Assault Awareness Month
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Every survivor’s experience is unique and different. By supporting one another this Sexual Assault Awareness Month and throughout the year, we can work to come together as a stronger community.
Whether you’ve gone through it yourself or have been a friend of someone who has, sexual assault is a critical topic that we should all be talking about. Wearing a Sexual Assault Awareness teal ribbon shirt is a great way to support survivors during Sexual Assault Awareness Month—and to show your community that you care about an important part of their health and well-being.They’re comfortable, stylish, and they send a powerful message: we believe you, we hear you, and we’re here for you.