Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month
April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention defines sexual violence as “any sexual act committed against someone without that person’s freely given consent.” New York State defines consent as a “knowing voluntary and mutual decision among all participants to engage in sexual activity and can be words or actions that give clear permission regarding willingness to engage in the sexual activity.”
Approximately 1 in 5 women (19.3%) in the United States have experienced rape or attempted rape in their lifetime. Girls who have been sexually abused are more likely to suffer physical violence and sexual violence re-victimization and be a victim of intimate partner violence later in life. Sexual violence and assault are not limited to females; 1 out of every 10 rape victims are male with 1 in 33 men having experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.
Additionally, the LGBTQ community faces high rates of sexual assault. High rates of poverty, stigma and marginalization puts people at risk for hate-motivated sexual violence. Transgender people and bisexual women face the most alarming rates of sexual violence. 44 percent of lesbians and 26 percent of gay men have experienced rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner. 61 percent of bisexual women and 37 percent of bisexual men have experienced this same sexual violence. These numbers increase significantly for our transgender community to 47 percent reporting sexual assault at some point in their lives in a 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey.
How do we stop sexual assault in our communities and make them safer for all? Several programs tackle sexual assault and violence in our communities. Below are a few that support safe, healthy relationships among children, teens, and adults.
Safe Dates This program focuses on teaching healthy relationship skills to adolescents in school settings. These include anger management and conflict resolution. This Curriculum can be found online Learn more.
Strong African American Families (SAFF) This prevention program incorporates an understanding of the unique strengths and stressors of African American parents and their preadolescent children. The aim is to prevent adolescent problem behaviors that include early sexual involvement and risky sexual behavior. Learn more.
Safer Choices An educational program that focusses on HIV, other STDs and pregnancy prevention and promotes a reduction in sexual risk behaviors and increase in protective behaviors among high school students. Learn more.
Coaching Boys into Men Encouraging men and boys to be allies in preventing sexual and relationship violence. This program can happen in a variety of settings including sports teams, high schools, colleges, fraternities, and community-based organizations. It focuses on engaging men and boys as allies, modeling positive masculinity and changing social and peer-group norms related to sexuality, violence, and relationships. Learn more here or here.
Green Dot This bystander education program aims to prevent violence with the help of bystanders. A green dot is a behavior choice or action that promotes safety for everyone and includes the 3Ds: Direct, Distract and Delegate. A bystander can directly address their concern with the potential perpetrator or victim. The bystander can then create a diversion to diffuse the potentially problematic situation. The bystander can then delegate someone else to help intervene in the situation (bar tender, other friends, police officer, etc.) Learn more.
Educational programs have been shown to be effective in reducing sexual assault and violence in our communities, but also have other positive long-term effects. These include reducing short- and long-term negative effects of sexual violence victimization, reducing long term risk among victimized youth, improve parent child communication, improve academic performance among youth, improve peer relations, including aggression, improve access to services for Sexual Violence Survivors and reduce arrests for sexual crimes. For more information on programs in your area, check with your health care provider, local law enforcement, and the resources listed below.
- In an emergency call 911.
- New York State Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotline for confidential assistance 1-800-942-6906
- New York City 1-800-621-HOPE (4673)
- National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)