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  • Writer's pictureAlana, RN

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Prevention Month

Sexual violence is a significant problem in the United States that can profoundly impact lifelong health, opportunity, and well-being. Here at the Hope Clinic, we aim to help our clients through STD testing, counseling, and partnership with community programs that assist victims of violence.

women with their backs to us hugging while sitting on the edge of a bed

So what is sexual violence? Sexual violence is sexual activity when consent is not obtained or freely given. The perpetrator of sexual violence is usually someone the survivor knows, such as a friend, current or former intimate partner, coworker, neighbor, or family member. Sexual violence affects millions of people each year in the United States. Researchers know the numbers underestimate this problem because many cases are unreported. You are NOT alone! Don’t ever be scared to report or talk to someone about what you have been through.


Risk factors for sexual violence include but are not limited to:

  • Alcohol and drug use

  • Aggressive behaviors and acceptance of violent behaviors

  • Early sexual initiation

  • Coercive sexual fantasies

  • Impersonal sex and sexual-risk taking

  • Exposure to sexually explicit media

  • Prior sexual victimization or perpetration

Family history of conflict and violence and childhood history of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse can increase the chances of victims assuming that what they are going through is normal. An emotionally unsupportive family environment and poor parent-child relationship can lead to victims not reporting what they are experiencing. Lack of institutional support from the police and judicial system and general tolerance of sexual violence within the community creates an environment where victims feel the community does not take them seriously and the community will do nothing to help them.


Sexual violence consequences can include:

  • bruising and genital injuries

  • sexually transmitted infections

  • Pregnancy

  • PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • suicidal thoughts

Sexual violence survivors are more likely to smoke, abuse alcohol, use drugs, and engage in risky sexual activity.


So what can we do to prevent it? We need to educate the community to be able to recognize types of sexual violence and to act upon those situations to stop them as quickly as possible. We must also teach teenagers and young adults healthy, safe dating relationship skills. Promoting safe, healthy sexuality also involves educating young people. Schools need to improve their safety and monitoring, and workplaces should have policies for boundaries and expectations in the job environment.


What can you do to help? Report an incident as soon as you see it. Support and follow up with the person who was involved. Encourage them to seek assistance and medical care as quickly as possible. Teach those around you what to look for and do if they are ever in that situation.


Family Services Women and Children's Shelter has a 24-hour Domestic Violence Crisis Intervention Hotline at 800-621-8882. They provide free safehouse protection, counseling, legal advocacy, case management, and support services!


Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network’s Sexual Assault Hotline: Call 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area. Chat one-on-one with a trained support specialist anytime online at online.rainn.org


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