Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month

[Content Note: detailed discussion of sexual assault/violence/abuse]

April is National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. Did you know that? Yes? No? Sorta-because-I-saw-someone-post-an-awareness pic-about-it-on-Facebook? In any case, you know now!

Even if you did know this month's designation, did you know:

* 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.

* 1 in 33 American men have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.

* 15% of sexual assault and rape victims are under age 12.

* 93% of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker. (source)

* Every 2 minutes, someone in the US is sexually assaulted.

* In 2005-10, 78% of sexual violence involved an offender who was a family member, intimate partner, friend, or acquaintance. (source)

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center's campaign this year is: It's talk about it! Talk Early, Talk Often. Prevent sexual violence.

It's never too early to approach this subject, as the easiest and arguably most important form of prevention is teaching about consent. A person can start this when their child is a baby/toddler:

1. "No" always means no. If you're playing, like say tickling, and the child says "no, stop"--even if they are laughing--you stop. Full stop. You teach them you respect their boundaries and help them learn to respect the boundaries of other people.

2. Do not force them to give anyone affection, including to you. Do not force affection onto them.

3. With children, parents often have to make decisions that involve giving consent for the child (like medical decisions). Talk with the child about this and, as the child gets older, give them age-appropriate control and autonomy. In some states, once a person is 13, they have a right to privacy over their medical records and treatment.


However, I'd like to revisit the first line of their campaign: It's talk about it.

1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.

15% of sexual assault and rape victims are under age 12.

78% of sexual violence involved an offender who was a family member, intimate partner, friend, or acquaintance.

Statistics, if sometimes shocking, can seem awfully...dry. Particularly if one has never experienced--or isn't really sure they've experienced--what the statistics represent, it's like: well, ok, that's a big number what what do those numbers really mean?

Let me tell you a story, in three parts:

When I was seven or eight (time sort of runs together when looking back), I attended a home daycare. The person who ran the daycare had a teenage son, who was 14/15. One day this boy got a scooter of sorts and I asked if I could ride it. He said I could: if I kissed him. I was all "uh, no, nevermind". We were alone, outside, by the parked cars of the townhouse complex. He pinned me down against a car and kissed me anyway. I never said anything. Why? I don't really recall; I was a child. I remember being upset but not any specific reasons as to why I never said anything. Thankfully I left that place not long after.

When I was seventeen I worked in the shoe department of Kmart. The shoe dept. had its own storage area/office, which was a small room with a door, though it was rather in the middle of the entire store. The security people would often use the upstairs area to watch the store--and I ended up being friendly with those people. There was this teenage boy employee (not part of security) who liked to try and chat me up, though I was decidedly not interested for a variety of reasons. He worked in a different department though often found his way over to mine. One day I was back in the storage area when he cornered me in there by the desk space. He had a broom in his hands, which he used the handle to run up my legs, between them, while engaging in what I can best describe as "malicious flirting". I told him to get out. A few days later I casually mentioned the incident to one of my security friends while we were talking. I wasn't meaning to tell on the guy but that's what happened. The security person reported it to HR. HR then called both of us in there for a good old-fashioned he said/she said victim-blaming show. The HR person wanted our stories, to be repeated in front of each other. She, the HR person, looked at me and asked me repeatedly: "Are you sure?"; "This is serious, you know."; "He could be in real trouble for this.". While he was in the room, no less. I didn't tell anyone else about it. I also quit not too long after.

I was raped.

These are what those statistics mean: lived experiences. Actual people being hurt, in a different ways--and at varying ages. Not everyone experiences multiple incidents, though that's not uncommon, and just one is one too many.

Chances are you know someone who has been assaulted--perhaps very well as it could be you, yourself. If you are: you not alone. That's a grim, cold sort of comfort but you are not alone.


To reiterate something I've said before:

You always, ALWAYS, have the right to say no--at any time, any place, with anyone--and you are right to expect that no to be respected.

More info and support: Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN): 1.800.656.HOPE or the National Online Hotline.

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