SAAM-The Orlando Times
Concerns, Reports Of Sexual Assault More Prominent Than Ever
BY JALESSA CASTILLO, TIMES STAFF WRITER
1 in 5 women, and 1 in 33 men will be the victim of sexual assault in their lifetime. Rape is the most under-reported crime, with 63% of sexual assaults not reported to police. And in eight out of 10 cases of rape, the victim knew the person who sexually assaulted them.
Concerns and reports of sexual assault have become more prominent now than ever. Sexual violence -- including rape, child sexual abuse, and sexual harassment -- is a complicated topic to understand. There are many fears, myths, and stereotypes that abound.
The goal of April, as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, is to raise public awareness about sexual violence and educate communities on how to prevent it. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) has themed this year’s campaign as, ‘I Ask’. The 2019 mission is to champion the message that asking for consent is a healthy, normal, and necessary part of everyday interactions.
In the late 1970s, women in England began to host Take Back the Night marches in protest against the violence they encountered as they walked the streets at night. In 1978, San Francisco and New York City held the first Take Back the Night events in the U.S.
Activists began using October in the early 1980s to raise awareness of violence against women with domestic violence as the main focus. Sexual assault advocates wanted a separate month to focus attention on sexual assault issues. By the end of the decade they selected a week in April and by the 1990s it spread to the entire month.
On April 1, 2001 the U.S. first observed SAAM nationally. Since its induction there have been a variety of themes including prevention, empowering victims, and focusing on assault at the workplace and on college campuses.
Founded by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) in 2000, the NSVRC is a communications hub, connecting people with the information, resources, tools and expertise needed to effectively address and prevent sexual violence. Each year, the network of rape crisis programs provides services to nearly 30,000 individuals impacted by sexual violence. “Sexual violence is something that unfortunately is very prevalent. [But] We do not think that sexual violence is inevitable,” said Laura Palumbo, Communications Director, NSVRC. “What we think it wi
ll take the turn the tide is for all of us to be responding to this issue differently and taking it seriously.”
Their website has various free printable posters, coloring pages, sharable social media graphics, and t-shirts to raise awareness for this month.
“It is important to always ask for consent. Your partner’s response should be enthusiastic, ongoing, and sober,” said Bianca Sabrkhani, Director, Development & Communications, Victim Service Center.
During this month of activism various organizations across the country will host events like Take Back the Night, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, and Denim Day to show recognition and support for victims.
Joined by Orange, Osceola, and Seminole County governments, as well as the cities of Orlando, Kissimmee, Ocoee, Apopka, Sanford, Altamonte Springs, the Victim Service Center is declaring Wednesday, April 24, 2019 ‘Denim Day’.
"This advocacy day stems from a case in Italy in the 1990's where there verdict was overturned based upon the jeans she had been wearing, 20 years later we are still encouraging communities throughout the world to wear jeans just as women did in response to that initial case. We want Survivors to know we stand with them, and sexual violence is never their fault," said Lui Damiani, Executive Director of VSC.
VSC is the Certified Rape Crisis Center serving Orange, Osceola, and Seminole Counties and maintains a 24/7 Sexual Assault Hotline (407.500.HEAL) staffed by Master- level victim advocates trained in the area of sexual violence and trauma.
Last year they provided acute care to 383 victims in Central Florida, which means forensic and emotional support within 120 hours of being sexually assaulted, in other words, more than 1 case per day.
81% of women and 35% of men report signiﬁcant short-term or long-term impacts such as PostTraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
“On the more emotional end of the spectrum it could cause depression, PTSD, anxiety, numbness, anger, or fear for some victims,” said Sabrkhani. “Often times a lot of victims experience self-blame or guilt, but they’d don’t need to because sexual assault is never the victims fault and that is what VSC is here to help with, coping with those emotions.”
The University of Central Florida, The University of South Florida, and others have held various events in honor of the month. Including, Take Back the Night, where students march across campus demanding change, resources, and offering others support.
In addition to events for support, there are many therapeutic, legal, and medical resources for victims.
For more information on SAAM, options for victims, or on how you can help bring awareness visit https://www.nsvrc.org or https://www.victimservicecenter.org/
“The fact that sexual assaults are occurring in high rates is not because people aren’t doing what it takes to keep themselves safe,” said Palumbo. “It’s the fact that sexual assault is so common place in our society and impacting people all ages of life. We need to be creating environments and communities where all of us are safe.”