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HomeCommentaryOp-edIt Is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

It Is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month when the focus is on encouraging year-round support for victims and survivors of sexual violence and promoting awareness of education and prevention efforts. This year’s theme, "Prevention is Possible," brings attention to efforts that include bystander intervention, local and federal government support for proactive policies, advocacy and education programs, and affirmative consent.
Sexual violence has been defined as any type of unwanted sexual contact, including:
 Rape or sexual assault, including rape by a person’s spouse or partner
 child molestation or incest
 sexual harassment, force or threats
 unwanted sexual contact or touching
 sexual trafficking or exploitation
 watching someone in private acts without their permission
Anyone can be a victim of sexual violence, including children, elders, teens and adults. Abusers can be relatives, friends, strangers or co-workers. Sexual violence affects people of all religions, ages, incomes, abilities, genders and sexual orientations.
 nationally, nearly one in five women have experienced rape or attempted rape
 three out of four adolescents were sexually assaulted by someone they knew well
 one-fifth of reported sexual assaults of youths were committed by a family member
Victims are never to blame for the actions of a perpetrator, regardless of the way they were dressed, what they were doing or any other circumstance. Only the abuser is responsible for his or her behavior. Not having visible injuries does not mean there was not an assault or that the survivor gave consent to the actions. We must challenge thoughts and actions that blame or shame victims. Speak up and out against attitudes that are racist, sexist or homophobic.
Learn what sexual violence is, and the importance of affirmative consent; it is not a "yes" if someone is unconscious or incapable of saying no. Share and discuss what you know in your family and friend circles, especially with young people, to help them make informed decisions about their safety and their bodies. Support for victims and survivors is crucial and helps to create a healing environment. We can create a culture that fosters mutual respect, compassion, and supportive, healthy relationships.
Males–the gender of the majority of perpetrators, must be involved in creating solutions that address oppression, inequality, privilege and other contributing factors in violence against women–the gender of the majority of sexual violence victims and survivors.
If you know someone who has been victimized let them know that you care. When, or if, a survivor decides to talk about their experience, the Women’s Coalition of St. Croix’s trained counselors and victim advocates are available to offer support without judgment. Please call our 24-hour hotline, (340) 773-9272, for crisis intervention. Visit our website, www.wcstx.org, for more information about our advocacy, programs and services for victims and survivors of sexual assault and other crimes.
Editor’s note: Debra Benjamin is the communications coordinator at the Women’s Coalition of St. Croix.
 

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