April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month
By Courtney G., Alexandra House Healthcare Coordinator
Sexual violence is an epidemic in our society that affects millions of women, men and children. It occurs among people of all races, religions, cultures, sexual orientations, socioeconomic and age groups. Sexual violence is any violence, physical or psychological, carried out through sexual means or by targeting a person’s sexuality, gender identity, or gender expression.
Some of these actions are defined as crimes by Minnesota statutes. Some experiences of sexual violence are hurtful violations of personal boundaries but may not rise to the level of a crime. However, that does not diminish the victim’s experience of being harmed.
- One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old
- Nearly two thirds of college students experience sexual harassment
- Rape is the most under-reported crime; 63% of sexual assaults are not reported to police
- The prevalence of false reporting is low — between 2% and 10%.
Many times when we talk about domestic or sexual violence – we recognize how awful it is, but we don’t always recognize how close to home it is. Alexandra House has healthcare advocates that respond to Hospital Calls in Anoka County where a patient has disclosed that they have been a victim of sexual violence, intimate-partner violence and elder abuse. Advocates will meet with victims in any treatment care unit within the hospitals as well as any designated areas of the clinics.
In 2018, in Anoka County Alexandra House responded to 300 hospital calls.
- 153 were sexual violence calls
- 147 were domestic violence calls.
These Anoka County statistics only represent the victims who went to the hospital and disclosed the violence they experienced. Think of how many were not able to do that – how many more victims are out there? For more information on crime reports in MN you can refer to the Denied Justice series put forth by the Star Tribune last year – which details what happens in Minnesota when people report sexual violence to the police.
These numbers show that there is work to be done in Anoka County. We need to work as a community to create a county where sexual violence is not accepted – and when people reach out for help they are able to receive it.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
So why isn’t there more conversation about sexual violence? It is past time to raise public awareness about sexual violence and educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence. We recognize that there are multiple causes of sexual violence – some related to individual pathology of offenders, most related to a culture that in some ways supports, condones, or ignores sexually violent messages and/or behavior. While it is impossible to agree on a single source for the cause of sexual violence, we can agree that this is a multidimensional issue that requires response on several fronts.
Here are a couple of ways to create a community that does not allow for sexual violence:
- Prevention: Let’s stop Sexual Violence before it ever happens! Get some great tips and take the pledge to make prevention a priority with the Rosemary Project:
- Support legislation that supports Victims/Survivors: Become aware of laws that can help victims and survivors heal – and laws that hold perpetrators accountable for their actions. You can learn what laws are needing support from the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault. They also have tips on how to talk to your legislator on their website!
- Be an active bystander: seek help when you see this problem or harassment of any kind in your family, community, workplace or school.
- Learn how to support victims/survivors in your life: Check out this great article from the New York Times that gives tips.
- Learn about resources like Alexandra House! Go to alexandrahouse.org to learn more about sexual violence, how you can help a friend, and how you can seek safety and peace for yourself.
It is so unfortunate that this type of violence happens in our community and to our loved ones. But the fact that it does happen in our community means we have the opportunity to change that. Use Sexual Assault Awareness Month as an opportunity to start talking about this difficult issues and do what the month calls for – spread awareness! Raise awareness about sexual violence. Talk about it with those in your life. Share it via social media. Invite Alexandra House to do a presentation to your school, business, community organization and/or faith group. If this has struck a chord in you – please consider becoming a volunteer hospital advocate.
“Changing the big picture takes time… and the best things to do is focus on the things that we can make in our lives if we’re doing all that. That becomes the collage of real change” – Michelle Obama