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SAAM 2012 focuses on prevention

April 3, 2012

Sexual assault can happen to anyone, regardless of sex, age, race, religion, culture or socioeconomic group. Consent is permission or agreement, and sex without consent is sexual assault. Photo by Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

In the month of April, the 2012 Sexual Assault Awareness campaign goes local, national and web-wide, moving beyond awareness to place an emphasis on promoting prevention through healthy sexuality.
Sexual abuse is a systemic social issue that has costs in the millions of lives and billions of dollars.
People are urged get involved during Sexual Assault Awareness Month so “we can highlight sexual violence as a major public health, human rights and social justice issue and reinforce the need for prevention efforts,” such as creating a climate that rejects gender-norming and eliminates sexual bullying and sexual assault, states the National Sexual Violence Resource Center website, ww.nsvrc.org.
In the era of web-wide campaigning, people can use social media to change profile pictures, focus on status updates, join the SAAM conversation by tweeting and posting to blogs to engage online communities in sexual violence prevention and add their SAAM events to the NSVRC website’s national calendar.
In addition, every Tuesday in April at 2 p.m. EST, tweeters and followers can join experts for live, one-hour, real-time discussions about healthy sexuality at http://twitter.com/nsvrc, #Tweetaboutit. Topics include preventing child sexual abuse, gender norms and consent and The Purity Mythology.
SAAM’s roots date back to the late 1970s, when women in England organized Take Back the Night protests against violence directed at women, explains the NSVRC website. These women-only protests became a movement and in 1978, Take Back the Night protests were staged in San Francisco and New York City. Men began participating, adding the issue of sexual violence against men into the mix.
After several permutations, Sexual Assault Awareness Week was established in the late 1980s. An ever-increasing number of advocate activities prompted the realization of a national Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April 2001.
According to the NSVRC website, consent is permission or agreement and sex without consent is sexual assault. It goes on to state that “when drugs and alcohol are involved, clear consent cannot be obtained … A partner saying nothing is not the same a partner saying ‘yes.’
Gender-norming is one of the contributing factors in sexual assault, as well as bullying in schools, according to NSVRC. Gender norms are a set of rules about how males and females should behave. They are not biological rules, they are cultural. As children grow up, these rules influence their sexuality and relationship behaviors, explains the website. It goes on to say that, “Often males are taught be aggressive, while women are taught to set limits sexually. This dynamic can contribute to sexual violence.” Stricter gender norms are more likely to result in risky sexual behavior, including unsafe sex, according to NSVRC. If all genders are taught to be assertive and communicative about sexuality and sexual health issues, it is likely that there will be more safe consensual sexual interactions.
Therefore, sexual assault prevention education can start early in a child’s life, maintains the NSVRC website. “Talking to your children about sexuality provides them with information that may help protect them from abuse (by helping them to) understand boundaries, identify abuse and tell someone they trust.” The website also gives parents stress-reducing tips for “the talk” such as: read up on the topic; stay composed and age-appropriate, ask non-confrontational questions, pay attention to what your children see, hear, do and say, and communicate the family’s values around sexuality.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence website, www.ncadv.org, “sex assault occurs in approximately 40-45 percent of battering relationships.” Domestic violence is a systematic pattern involving emotional abuse, dominance, and controlling behaviors that lead to physical injury, psychological trauma and sometimes death.
Incidents of sexual assault, and domestic violence, most of which go unreported, form a pattern that “can cross generations and truly last a lifetime. Boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to perpetuate it with intimate partners when they grow up,” states the NCADV website.
These far-reaching consequences include a social cost quantified by the following NCADC statistics:
• 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men experience sexual assault
• 1 in 12 women and 1 in 45 men have been stalked
• 7.8 million women have been raped by intimate partner
RAINN, the Rape Abuse Incest National Network website, www.rainn.org states:
• 44 percent of victims are under age 18
• 80 percent are under age 30
• every 2 minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted
• there are an average of 207,754 victims (age 12 or older) of sexual assault each year
• 54 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the police
• 97 percent of rapists will never spend a day in jail
• 2/3 of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim
• 38 percent of rapists are a friend or acquaintance
Furthermore, these statistics do not include the societal costs which every citizen ultimately pays, NCADV statistics reveal. For example, “intimate partner violence exceeds $5.8 billion, $4.1 billion of which is for direct medical and mental health services.” These costs are accumulated in legal, medical and mental services rendered. In the work place, domestic abuse and sexual assault result in: lost work days, arriving late and leaving early, lost productivity, lost earnings, harassment and other work problems. Fifty-four percent of victims miss entire days of work and 8 million lost paid-work days annually are the equivalent of more than 32,000 full-time jobs, per NCADV statistics.
Closer to home, Wild Iris sexual abuse statistics for children under the ages of 16 reveal that 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are direct victims of sexual abuse. Wild Iris’ statistics also show that sexual assault has risen dramatically over the last year, with a 179 percent increase in sexual assault hotline calls and a 50 percent increase in sexual assault crisis counseling sessions, said Wild Iris Associate Director Michelle Pettit, People are reporting it more even though this is such a “taboo subject.” Traditionally, females are victims of sexual abuse; however, 10 percent of Wild Iris clients are male.
Wild Iris is planning several events for SAAM, the details of which will be announced throughout April.
For additional information about sexual abuse and domestic violence issues, resources and help, contact Wild Iris at 386 W. Line St., Bishop, www.wild-iris.org, (760) 873-6601, or the 24-hour hotline at (877) 873-7384.

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