April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. While this may not be a pleasant topic to read about, it is sadly a reality in our society. It is important to raise awareness of sexual assault to help prevent it. Many people still don’t even understand what sexual assault is. According to the Office on Women's Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Sexual assault is any type of forced or coerced sexual contact or behavior that happens without consent. Sexual assault includes rape and attempted rape, child molestation, and sexual harassment or threats.”
Sexual assault affects people of all races, beliefs, income levels, genders and ages. Further statistics on sexual assault in the United States are also alarming:
- Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually abused.
- 1 in 5 American women have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime.
- Approximately 7 out of 10 sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim.
- 54% of victims are aged 18 to 34.
- 63% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police.
Many people mistakenly believe that sexual assault/rape is a result of out-of-control lust or passion – this is far from the truth. Sexual assault/rape is an act of power and control. Furthermore, perpetrators do not select their victims by their appearance – attractiveness is not an issue; they select victims who are vulnerable and accessible.
The impact of a sexual assault often remains with a victim throughout their lifetime. Victims often suffer from a wide variety of physical and mental health problems. They are 3 times more likely to suffer from depression, 6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, 14 times more likely to abuse alcohol, 26 times more likely to abuse drugs, and 4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.
If someone you know tells you that they have been the victim of a sexual assault, there are several things you can do to help:
- Believe them
- Listen to them
- Tell them this was not their fault
- Help them to call the police and file a report
- See to it that they get medical attention promptly
For more information or assistance, if you or someone you know has been the victim of a sexual assault, please call one of the following organizations:
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-HOPE