Sexual Assault Awareness Month: How Communities Can Prevent Abuse and Harassment

SAAM BELatina Latinx sexual violence

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) and according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), the leading nonprofit in providing information and tools to prevent and respond to sexual violence, rape is the most under-reported crime: 63 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the police. 

Every year the NSVRC and other anti-sexual assault organizations, including rape crisis centers, government agencies, businesses, individuals, and more, congregate across the United States to highlight sexual violence as not only as a public health issue, but also as a human rights and social justice issue that needs to be addressed and completely eradicated. 

The NSVRC is making sure that everyone in need or looking for information about sexual assault finds the necessary resources. “We believe everyone should have access to information that will allow them to build programs and policies to end sexual violence and serve those who have been impacted. We act as a communication hub, connecting people with the information, resources, tools, and expertise needed to effectively address and prevent sexual violence in all communities,” explained the nonprofit. “We are committed to ensuring access to quality resources for all children, teens, young adults, adults, and people in later life. We use traditional and online forms of communication to create communities of support for preventing sexual violence.”

According to the center, in order to notice positive changes, a group of “advocates, researchers, funders, public health professionals, policymakers, culturally specific community-based programs, sex offender treatment and management professionals, national partners, and others” are key players in this unified movement. The NSVRC also works with media outlets like BELatina to keep the public and readers informed and involved in how important it is to play a role in this campaign.

For the whole BELatina team, it is imperative to do our part in enlightening our Hispanic and Latinx community on this topic that affects us all equally. Catalina Martínez Coral, regional director for Latin America & the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights said during the 2017 Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) that reproductive health and rights should be a priority and emphasized how females should never live stigmatized after surviving trauma. “Too many young girls and women who experience sexual violence are oppressed, stigmatized and denied access to justice,” Martínez Coral said at the hearing. “Survivors of sexual violence should never feel alone or silenced and it’s time for states to provide channels for women and girls to get the medical services and support services they need without fear.”

 

According to the National Crime Victimization Survey (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2004), one in six Hispanic females living in the United States ages 13 and older are victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault, while one in five women and one in 71 men of any race and ethnicity will be raped at some point in their lives. Following the projections of the U.S. Census for the Hispanic female population, if statistics continue by the year 2050, “females of Hispanic origin who have experienced some form of sexual violence could reach 10.8 million,” as reported by NSVRC.

Facts You Should Know About Latinas and Sexual Violence

  1. According to the American Association of University Women, girls reported that they were most likely to stop attending school activities and sports events to avoid sexual harassment. 
  2. Married Latinas are less likely to define their experiences of forced sex by their spouses as “rape.”
  3. Some married Latinas view sex as a marital obligation.
  4. Rape has become a common issue for women who make the journey across the Mexico-U.S. border.
  5. The Southern Poverty Law Center reported in 2009 that “77 percent of the Latinas surveyed said that sexual harassment was a major problem in the workplace.”
  6. Domestic workers are highly vulnerable to sexual exploitation from their employers. 
  7. According to “Lessons from the Fields: Female Farmworkers and the Law,” by Maria Ontiveros, female farmworkers are 10 times more vulnerable to sexual assault and harassment at work.

How Sexual Assault Impacts Victims and the Economy

  1. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects 81 percent of women and 35 percent of men that have suffered any type of sexual assault.
  2. According to NSVRC, the lifetime cost of rape per victim in the United States is $122,461. Rape cases “cost more than any other crime ($127 billion), followed by assault ($93 billion), murder ($71 billion), and drunk driving, including fatalities ($61 billion).” 
  3. Overall health care is 16 percent higher for women who were sexually abused as children.
  4. Health care is 36 percent higher for women who were physically and sexually abused as children.

Child Sexual Abuse by the Numbers

  1. The NSVRC reported that “one in four girls and one in six boys” in the United States “will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old.”
  2. 30 percent of women who suffered rape were between the ages of 11 and 17.
  3. It was also revealed that “12.3 percent of women were age 10 or younger at the time of their first completed rape victimization,” while “27.8 percent of men were age 10 or younger.”
  4. 96 percent of people who sexually abuse children are male.
  5. 34 percent of people who sexually abuse a child are family members of the child.
  6. When it comes to prostitution the average age for girls is 12-14 years old, and for boys, it is 11-13 years old.
  7. Only 12 percent of child sexual abuse is reported to the authorities.

Know Your Rights

Although every state has different laws, there are some that might apply to sexual assault victims.

  1. Forensic exam (rape kit) at no cost.
  2. Confidential access to victim advocates.
  3. Statute of limitations on reporting a sexual assault case to the police.
  4. Possible financial compensation for crime victims.

How to Get Involved to End Sexual Violence in the United States, and Around the World

As a movement that relies on people who’ve made a choice to do something positive, there are many ways anyone with good intentions can become involved. Volunteers can help to change the conversations about sexual violence, how to prevent it, and how to support survivors. 

Donations are essential to keeping the NSVRC rape crisis center functioning; therefore any donation is essential to pushing the movement to end sexual violence forward.

You can participate in the #30DaysofSAAM Instagram challenge. Every day in April the NSVRC asks supporters to post a photo, collage, illustration, digital art, video, or other original content on their Instagram account using the hashtag. Each day a winner will be highlighted on the nonprofit Instagram page and will receive a prize pack as a token of appreciation.

Whether you live in the U.S or any other country, remember that territory has an organization designated to help victims and raise awareness. If you or someone you know are a victim of assault find the respective rape crisis center in the Directory of State and Territory Coalitions, as well as the Directory of Victim/Survivor Support Organizations or call the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.