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April Is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

By Cara Spagnola MSW, LISW, LCSW

**Trigger Warning: Mentions of Sexual Violence

In the United States, 43.6% of women and 24.8% of men have experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime 1. In a large-scale study with transgender respondents, 47% reported experiencing sexual assault in their lifetime 2.

Here at Eating Recovery Center and Pathlight Mood & Anxiety Center, our clinicians see the impact that trauma has on individuals and their families. With those statistics, it is almost guaranteed that someone you know is a victim or survivor of sexual violence. Most people want to be a source of comfort and support for their friends and family, a person their loved ones can trust and confide in if something bad happens to them. For those who are knowingly supporting a survivor, you want to help them and make sure that it never happens again. It can be hard to know where to start, how to learn about such a difficult issue, and what you can do to make a difference.

Each April, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) organizes Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), which is about awareness and prevention of sexual assault, harassment, and abuse. Awareness coupled with prevention has been a cornerstone of this campaign, as “it’s impossible to prevent an issue no one knows about, and it’s difficult to make people aware of a problem without providing a solution” 3. This year’s SAAM theme is “Building Safe Online Spaces Together,” which addresses harassment, cyberbullying, sexual abuse, and exploitation. The past 2 years have virtually connected society on a level never seen before, so it is evident that respect, inclusion, and safety in the digital world are timely topics.

There are many ways to get involved in sexual violence awareness and prevention this April and beyond. Actively working to prevent sexual assault may seem like a huge task left up to the experts and advocates to figure out, but this isn’t the case! Ordinary people have it within their power to prevent sexual violence. The NSVRC states that “we all have the ability to positively influence others. You can help the people you care about question harmful beliefs by speaking up if a friend makes jokes or comments about sexual assault or by modeling consent with friends and family. Taking action in some way, shape, or form helps to change the thoughts and behaviors of a community”. 4

Learn, Connect, and Take Action

Sources

1. Smith, S.G., Zhang, X., Basile, K.C., Merrick, M.T., Wang, J., Kresnow, M., Chen, J. (2018). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2015 Data Brief – Updated Release. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/2015data-brief508.pdf
2. James, S. E., Herman, J. L., Rankin, S., Keisling, M., Mottet, L., & Anafi, M. (2016). The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality https://transequality.org/sites/default/files/docs/usts/USTS-Full-Report-Dec17.pdf p 205
3. NSVRC, SAAM History: https://www.nsvrc.org/saam/2022/about/historyofsaam
4. NSVRC, Safety and Prevention: https://www.nsvrc.org/safety-prevention

Written by

Cara Spagnola MSW, LISW, LCSW

Cara has over 10 years of experience working with children and families in a variety of settings. She learned along the way that connection, education, and support help alleviate the stigma and…