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Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month

Sexual Assault Awareness: How to Protect Yourself

Every 68 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. Every 9 minutes, a sexual assault victim in the U.S. is a child.

Of the almost quarter million people sexually assaulted in the U.S. annually, 80% are women under age 30, with those ages 12 to 19 years old experiencing the highest rates of rape and sexual assault.  Studies indicate approximately 10% of our country’s total adolescent population report experience physical violence initiated by an intimate partner during the previous year.

Meanwhile, only 25 out of every 1,000 sexual assault perpetrators in our country become incarcerated.

Sexual assault affects hundreds daily, with thousands of unreported incidents going undetected due to victims’ fear of retribution, threat or harm from attackers or feelings of embarrassment or shame.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) iterates startling data about sexual assault in the U.S.:

Sexual violence is common and affects everyone. Over half of women and almost 1 in 3 men have experienced sexual violence involving physical contact during their lifetimes. One in 4 women and about 1 in 26 men have experienced completed or attempted rape. About 1 in 9 men were forced into sexual penetration. Additionally, 1 in 3 women and about 1 in 9 men experienced sexual harassment in a public place.

Sexual violence starts early. More than 4 in 5 female rape survivors reported they were first raped before age 25, with almost 50% initially raped before age 18. Nearly 8 in 10 male rape survivors reported they were coerced into sexual penetration before age 25 and about 4 in 10 were initially forced to perform sexual penetration as a minor under age 18 years.

Sexual violence disproportionately affects some groups. Women plus racial and ethnic minority groups experience a higher burden of experiencing sexual violence. More than 2 in 5 non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native and non-Hispanic multiracial women were raped during their lifetimes.

Sexual violence is costly to survivors and their families. Recent estimates put lifetime cost of rape at $122,461 per survivor, including medical costs, lost productivity, criminal justice activities plus additional costs.

Sexual assault leaves lingering consequences affecting survivors and their families. Physical and psychological consequences can be devastating to survivors’ health throughout the rest of their lives. Sexual assault can result in pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) plus injuries ranging from bruising to broken bones and disfiguration. It can also result in survivors experiencing depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts and tendencies.

Consequences may also become chronic after sexual assault occurs and contribute to negative health behaviors. Survivors may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and experience re-occurring reproductive, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and sexual health problems. Additionally, sexual violence survivors are more likely to smoke, abuse alcohol, use drugs and engage in risky sexual activity.

Sexual violence trauma may impact a survivor’s overall life afterwards. Employment may be affected due to time away from work, diminished performance, job loss or inability to work. These issues disrupt earning power and have long-term effects on the economic well-being of survivors and their families. Coping and completing everyday tasks after victimization can be difficult. Survivors may struggle with maintaining personal relationships, returning to work or school and regaining feelings of normalcy.

Additionally, sexual violence is connected to other types of violence. Girls who have been sexually abused are more likely to experience additional sexual violence and violence types plus become victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) during adulthood. Bullying perpetration during early middle school is linked to sexual harassment perpetration later during high school.

April is designated Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. Your local Capital Women’s Care team of compassionate doctors, assistants and support staff want to share important information concerning sexual assault, including what constitutes sexual assault, pertinent prevention tips and valuable resource tools you can use to be more aware and prevent sexual assault from happening to you and your loved ones.

What is Sexual Assault?

According to the Office on Women’s Health (OWH), sexual assault may be defined as any type of sexual activity or contact given without consent. It can happen through physical force or threats of force or if the attacker gave drugs or alcohol as part of the assault. Sexual assault includes rape and sexual coercion. It’s imperative to remember sexual assault is not the victim’s fault, regardless of the circumstances surrounding the attack.

Sexual assault can include:

  • any type of sexual contact with someone who cannot consent, such as someone who is underage as defined by state laws, has an intellectual disability, or is passed out (either from drugs or alcohol) or unable to respond (like sleeping.)
  • any type of sexual contact with someone who does not consent.
  • rape.
  • attempted rape.
  • sexual coercion.
  • sexual contact with a child.
  • or fondling/unwanted touching above or under clothing.

What’s more, sexual assault can also be verbal, visual or non-contact. It is anything that forces someone to join in unwanted sexual activities or attention. Other such examples include:

  • voyeurism, or peeping (when someone watches private sexual acts without consent.)
  • exhibitionism (when someone exposes himself or herself in public.)
  • sexual harassment or threats.
  • forcing someone to pose for sexual pictures.
  • or sending someone unwanted texts or “sexts” (texting sexually explicit photos or messages.)

Finally, sexual assault is any sexual activity you do not consent to – no matter whom it is. Sexual assault by an intimate partner (someone with whom you have a sexual or romantic relationship) is common, as nearly 50% of females who experience rape are attacked by either a current or former intimate partner.

Safety Tips

Sexual assault can occur anywhere – at your workplace or within the military, on your school campus and even in your own home. It’s important to know and follow safety tips that may be lifesaving:

  • Be constantly aware and assertive. Always keep a close eye on your surroundings and avoid any situations where you’re isolated. Elevators, stairwells and dark alleys are dangerous places for women who are by themselves. If you must walk by yourself, pay attention to your gut and remove yourself from situations and locations that make you feel uncomfortable. Avoid distractions like headphones or talking on the phone, especially when you’re alone. Walk with your head up and shoulders back to thwart would-be attackers.
  • Avoid being a target. Distracted women, or women who can’t easily fight back are easy targets for assailants. Don’t carry too many bags or boxes, as doing so also makes you a target. Ponytails serve as an easy way for assailants to grab, so avoid wearing one when you’re by yourself.
  • Initiate a buddy system. Unfortunately, women don’t have the luxury of just going out by themselves, especially when it comes to nightclubs, bars and restaurants. Always have a buddy with you so you can watch out for each other in a social setting.
  • Be vigilant and watch your drink. It only takes a second for an assailant to slip a drug into your drink. Never leave your drink unattended, and always keep it in your line of view when you set it down. If you do leave your drink to go to the bathroom or to hit the dance floor, get rid of it. Furthermore, never accept a drink from a stranger (unless he orders it for you, and you see the bartender pour and make it.)
  • Go ahead and hurt feelings. Women sometimes find themselves in isolated and dangerous situations because they’re afraid of hurting feelings. But if a man is making you feel uncomfortable, he needs to have his feelings hurt. If you don’t want to go home with him, don’t want to dance with him or don’t want to accept a drink from him, tell him firmly. No means no, regardless of whether the situation is “innocent” or violent.
  • Use an escape plan. Plan for a worst-case scenario. Keep your cell phone charged at all times and carry the number for a cab along with cash for the fare. Additionally, make sure you and your buddy have agreed on the time you plan to leave, and stick to it.

As a parent, it’s important to educate both boys and girls about sexual assault. Doing so helps them understand it and identify such behaviors, follow appropriate behaviors with others and speak up should others be threatened. Talk with your child throughout their growing years to establish open, honest communication. Frank discussions will help them become responsible teens and young adults who recognize and understand the implications that can result from these behaviors and realize these behaviors are not to be tolerated.

Sexual Assault Resources

Sexual assault is nothing to be ashamed of. By initializing help and support you can protect yourself and others.

Click the link for important information from the Office of Women’s Health (OWH) concerning relationships, safety and violence: click

For further information about relationships, violence and safety, call the OWH Helpline at 800-994-9662 or contact the following organizations:

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC), HHS 800-232-4636 ‚Ä¢
  • National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs 212-714-1141 ‚Ä¢
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline 800-799-SAFE (7233) ‚Ä¢
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline 800-656-HOPE (4673) ‚Ä¢
  • Victim Connect Resource Center, National Center for Victims of Crime 855-484-2846 ‚Ä¢

Your local Capital Women’s Care team of empathetic, compassionate doctors, assistants and support staff is here to answer your questions and concerns relating to sexual assault and any women’s health issue. Our premier practices prioritize quality, comprehensive treatment and care so you achieve and enjoy a quality long life.