This April marks the 16th anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which aims to increase public knowledge about sexual violence and educate communities on how to prevent it. For 2017, the theme of Engaging New Voices hopes to spread the word to as many people as possible in order to promote safety.
Unfortunately, sexual assault is an issue that hits close to home for many who have either been a victim themselves or know of a loved one who has been affected. In the U.S., one in two women and one in five men have experienced sexual violence, and most victims are 25 years of age or younger.
Just being aware of the facts goes a long way to help prevent sexual violence before it occurs, so here’s what you should know:
- Sexual assault can occur anywhere, from the workplace to the coffee shop, and includes any type of unwanted sexual contact, from sexist words (like jokes) to actions (like rape and murder). It is any language or action that is of a sexual nature against a person’s will. It is sexual activity where consent is not freely given.
- Consequences can be short term and include guilt, shame and fear, as well as long term, with victims experiencing physical and mental issues ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to eating disorders and depression.
- If you witness or experience sexual violence, speak up and get help and support from trusted family and friends. Do not stay silent. Contact the police if you feel unsafe.
- Educate yourself about the issue so you can take action. Learn more by visiting the website for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center at www.nsvrc.org.