April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and is dedicated to raising public awareness about sexual assault and educating communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence.
In the United States, girls age 16-19 are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of sexual assault. Young men and boys, as well as young transgender people, are also commonly victims of sexual violence who all too often remain less visible (Source: Scarleteen). 1 in 4 girls will be sexually assaulted by age 18, and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted by age 18 (Source: Mississippi Coalition Against Sexual Assault).
That’s why it’s vital to raise awareness about sexual assault.
What constitutes sexual assault?
Sexual assault can take many different forms. As defined by RAINN, the term sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim. Some forms of sexual assault include:
- Attempted rape
- Fondling or unwanted sexual touching
- Forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, such as oral sex or penetrating the perpetrator’s body
- Penetration of the victim’s body, also known as rape
For more detailed information, visit RAINN’s website. In these situations, it’s important to remember that the victim is never to blame for the actions of a perpetrator.
What if I’ve been sexually assaulted?
RAINN has great resources for what you can do if you have been sexually assaulted. Here are a few action steps:
- Make sure you are in a safe environment. Reach out to someone you trust, and go to a place where you feel safe.
- Remember that what happened was not your fault. It’s okay to feel a lot of emotions, but remember one thing: you are the victim. You are not to blame.
- Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673). You’ll be connected to a trained staff member from a local sexual assault service provider in your area. They will direct you to the appropriate local health facility that can care for survivors of sexual assault.
From here, you will be walked through the process of getting help and be told your options for what to do next. Check out RAINN for information on receiving medical attention, your reporting options, and what a Rape Kit is and if you need one.
How can I support someone who has been sexually assaulted?
If someone you know has been sexually assaulted and tells you about it, it’s important to listen to them and believe what they say. Remember that it is up to the individual to decide what the next step is: going to the hospital, bringing a charge against their rapist, or dealing with it on their own.
Ask what you can do to help. You can also suggest finding online resources or calling a hotline.
For a more specific guide on what to do if a teenager is sexually assaulted, visit Scarleteen.
Here are a few resources:
- The National Sexual Violence Research Center / 717-909-0710
- 24 Hour Rape Crisis Hot-Line: 800-656-HOPE (4673)
At Fact Not Fiction, we want everyone to have the right information, regardless of your age, gender, sexuality, or whether or not you’re sexually active. Whatever you do, with whomever, don’t do it in the dark. And ALWAYS make sure it’s done with consent.