April is nationally recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. During this month, the Center for Survivors of Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence will be joining with people throughout the state and the nation to focus on raising awareness on this important issue.
The truth is that many people still believe that instances of sexual assault are rare. The tragic reality is that one in six women and one in 33 men in the United States have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. Victims under the age of 12 account for 15 percent of all sexual assaults.
In Nebraska alone, over 84,000 women have been raped at least once during their lifetime. According to the US Department of Justice’s National Crime Survey (NCVS), 293,066 Americans are victims of sexual assault each year. That number equals to one assault every 107 seconds.
The majority of sexual assaults are committed by someone known by the victim, including a friend, acquaintance, intimate partner, or relative, and usually occurs within one mile of the victim’s home. With the fact that most sexual assaults are unreported (two out of three assaults go unreported), most perpetrators will never spend a day in jail or prison.
We all have a responsibility to end sexual assault. Parents and caregivers can address this issue by talking to your children/teenagers about personal boundaries and healthy sexual development. Remind your kids that nothing would ever make you stop loving them, and you promise to always listen if they or their friends need help. Help them make a list of supportive adults they can talk to if they can’t tell you.
Teach them how to be a good friend. Let them know that if their friend reports an incident, they should believe. As a friend, don’t push a survivor of sexual assault to share their story if they are not ready. These individuals are hurting and each person responds to trauma differently. If someone discloses to you, listen to them and allow them to share the information that they are comfortable with sharing in their own words and in their own time.
In our society, it is often easy to blame the victim for being in the “wrong place” or hanging out with the “wrong crowd.” Victims may get labeled as being promiscuous or even blamed for the assault all together. Reassure them that you will be there for them and help them to get the services they need.
For more information on Sexual Assault Awareness Month or if someone you know has been sexually assaulted, contact the Center for Survivors 24-hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-658-4482/402-564-2155. The Center for Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Survivors is a non-profit agency serving Boone, Butler, Colfax, Nance, Platte and Polk counties in Nebraska. We provide free and confidential services 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
References: National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey; World Health Organization. 2002.; National Sexual Violence Resource Center. http://www.nsvrc.org/; U.S. Department of Justice. National Crime Victimization Survey. 2009-2013.
Megan Cimpl is the volunteer/communications coordinator at Center for Survivors.