April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month
Recent headlines and recent research continue to shed light on sexual abuse/assault as a very serious problem in America. Some of the most recent data (published in 2014), from the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, indicates that 18.3% of women and 1.4% of men admitted to having been raped in some point in their lives. This translates into approximately 22,000,000 women and 1,600,000 million men who have been raped. The data also show that 44.6% of women (approximately 53,174,000 women) and 22.2% of men (approximately 25,130,000 men) were victims of sexual violence other than rape at some point during their lives. (http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/nisvs_report2010-a.pdf(link is external) )
Based on slightly different wording in survey questions, data from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (2009) showed that 18.5% of women and 5.8% of men reported having experienced forced sex at some point in their lives. Research published in 2007 reported that 60.4% of female and 69.2% of male rape victims were first raped before age 18. ( http://www.atsa.com/sexual-abuse-public-health-problem(link is external) ) Estimates of the number of children who are sexually abused each year in the United States vary, and are almost certain to be gross underestimates, given the many issues and obstacles related to collecting the data. Surveys of adult women about their own childhood experiences, for example, have resulted in estimates of childhood sexual abuse ranging from 9 – 32%.
Sexual assault impacts the victim/survivor in many ways. Effects are both immediately and long term, and can include (this is not an exhaustive list): intense fears and anxiety, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, depression, loss of a sense of self-worth, withdrawal, sleep disorders, eating disorders, self-injurious behaviors, flashbacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, disrupted relationships, increased substance abuse, changes in personality, increased difficulties in trusting others, increased difficulties in developing and maintaining healthy relationships, and suicide. Along with other sources, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network website (www.rainn.org(link is external) ) has additional information about the effects of sexual violence upon its victims/survivors.
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center offers a downloadable brochure with additional statistics and tips on how you can make a difference in the fight against sexual abuse. These tips include [I have added some comments, in brackets]: be a role model for respectful behavior to those around you; intervene/speak up, when you see inappropriate (violent or coercive) behavior [and/or call 911]; talk with your children [in an age-appropriate manner] about healthy sexual development and healthy personal boundaries; learn more about sexual violence and share that information with others. (http://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/saam_2014_understanding-sexual-…(link is external) ) This site (www.nsvrc.org(link is external)) also offers additional information/resources related to Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Information relative to support and events in Alabama can be found at the website for the Alabama Coalition Against Sexual Violence ( https://www.facebook.com/AlabamaACASV(link is external) ).
I encourage you to visit these websites to learn more about sexual violence, its impact upon victims/survivors, and how you can get involved to take a stand against it.
Dr. Terry Sterry