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Sexual Assault Awareness Month

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Sexual violence has affected many of us or someone close to us. In an effort to raise public awareness about sexual violence and educate communities on how to prevent the issue, April is nationally recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM).

According to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network:

  • Every 92 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted
  • 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime
  • 1 in 33 American men have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.
  • From 2009-2013, Child Protective Services found strong evidence to indicate that 63,000 children a year were victims of sexual abuse.
  • A majority of child victims are ages 12-17. Of the majority, 34% of child victims of sexual assault and rape are under age 12, and 66% are ages 12-17.

Each year during April, state, community-based organizations, rape crisis centers, government agencies, colleges and universities, etc. plan events and activities to shed light on sexual violence as a public health, human rights, and social justice issue while also emphasizing the need for prevention efforts.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center has a campaign theme, I Ask, which promotes the message that asking for consent is a healthy, normal, and necessary part of everyday interactions.

In Arkansas, there is a lack of consent if a person engages in a sexual act with another person by forcible compulsion or with a person who is incapable of consent because he or she is physically helpless, mentally defective or mentally incapacitated. Arkansas Code §§ 5-14-103; 5-14-125.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center was established in 2000 by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and the Center for Disease Control. In 2001, the NSVRC coordinated the first formally recognized national Sexual Assault Awareness Month campaign, and still facilitates it today. In 2005, the campaign shifted to prevention of sexual violence and the first tool kits were sent out to coalitions and rape crisis centers across the country. Awareness for the campaign reached a peak in 2009 when Barack Obama was the first president to officially proclaim April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

The history of SAAM dates back to as early as the 1970s as there was a significant growth for prevention and awareness of sexual violence across the United States. The Bay Area Women Against Rape opened in 1971 as the nation’s first rape crisis center offering immediate victim services. Following this establishment, state coalitions began to form, beginning with Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape in 1975.

In 1976, Take Back the Night (TBTN), an international event that rallies women in organized protest against rape and sexual assault, was established in response to sexual assault and violence against women walking the streets at night. TBTN soon became a movement across the U. S. and Europe, leading to more activities and events to raise awareness of violence against women. Other SAAM activities and events that take place include Day of Action, The Clothesline Project, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, and Denim Day.

Survivors, advocates, and state coalitions came together to create and implement the Violence Against Women Act in 1994. The bill is the first national law requiring law enforcement to treat gender violence as a crime rather than a private family matter. The bill is also designed to strengthen legal protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual violence as well as expand services to survivors and their children.

You can take action against sexual assault by donating or volunteering at organizations in your community.

The National Assault Hotline offers confidential, anonymous support to survivors 24/7/365. It is always the right time to get help: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Sheriff Lafayette Woods, Jr.