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April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Stand Up For Your Community

My career path has led me to become a Crime Victim Advocate in Upstate New York, where I’ve spent 12 years this month serving victims of violence. Most have been female. The age range most offended against: 12 through 20. In that time our agency, Crime Victims Assistance Center has served over 3,600 victims of sexual violence. The World Health Organization currently says that one in three women worldwide will be violently attacked at some point in their lives.

Understanding the Nature and Dynamics of Sexual Violence

“For centuries, women have endured sexual violence. Sisters, mothers, wives and daughters have silently survived commonly accepted, sexually violent acts committed against them in their communities and in their homes. Women were considered less important than men, so crimes against them also were seen as less important. This type of thinking normalized and minimized sexual violence, leaving women without a formal system with which to hold perpetrators accountable or to seek help. Women today face many of the same challenges.”

President Jimmy Carter said, “The abuse of women and girls is the most pervasive and unaddressed human rights violation on earth.”

What can be done?

In the US, the Office of Justice Programs promotes the Office of Victims of Crime. Each April, OVC helps lead communities throughout the country in their annual observances of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. During that time, communities promote victims’ rights and honor crime victims and those who advocate on their behalf. In 2014, NCVRW was observed April 6–12, 2014. The theme: "30 Years: Restoring the Balance of Justice."

Every citizen can aid their local Victims Assistance Program by donation, by volunteering, or simply raising awareness. We need to talk about these issues in order to be safe where live, work and go to school.

We can also simply be supportive of a friend, family member or colleague who comes forth to disclose a sexual assault. Sexual violence is an intensely personal and sometimes devastating offense. It has been my experience that a woman victimized by sexual violence deserves to tell her story to a non-judgmental, empathetic person. It is critically important to let her know that she is believed and that no matter what she did, the attack was not her fault.

The White House declares April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month

“Every April, our Nation comes together to renew our stand against a crime that affronts our basic decency and humanity. Sexual assault threatens every community in America, and we all have a role to play in protecting those we love most -- our mothers and fathers, our husbands and wives, our daughters and sons. During National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, we recommit to ending the outrage of sexual assault, giving survivors the support they need to heal, and building a culture that never tolerates sexual violence.”

For more information, contact Diane at diane@cvac.us .