The statistics are sobering.
Every 68 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. Every 9 minutes, the victim is a child.
The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network also reports that an average of 433,600 Americans age 12 and older are sexually assaulted or raped each year and 60,000 children are victims of substantiated or indicated sexual abuse.
“Rape and sexual assault are big problems that are not talked about openly in our society. That needs to change,” Jackson County Sheriff Rick Meyer said in a news release. “April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. It is a great time to educate yourself about the extent of this abuse and to learn how you can help.”
RAINN also reports that sexual assault overwhelmingly impacts women with 90% of victims being female. The majority of sexual assaults take place at or near the victim’s home, and eight out of 10 victims know their attacker.
“This is a very personal matter in most instances,” Meyer said. “The victim’s relationship to her abuser complicates the situation and can make it difficult for her to come forward for fear of not being believed and/or consequences from her assailant.”
Sexual assault and harassment can happen anywhere, including in online formats. Meyer said it’s very important to talk to any young people in your life about sexual assault, inappropriate communication and touch and what to do if they see or experience something they feel is wrong.
“Parents need to talk to their children about this. It is absolutely vital to have these conversations, especially when children have smartphones and spend time online,” Meyer said. “Children can be easily drawn into inappropriate and illegal communication when abusers target them online.”
Given the large number of sexual assault victims in the United States each year, it is highly likely you will encounter someone who has been sexually assaulted at some point. Knowing how to respond when a friend or relative discloses abuse is crucial.
Here are some phrases RAINN recommends to support a survivor through their recovery process:
• “I believe you. It took a lot of courage to tell me about this.”
• “It’s not your fault. You didn’t do anything to deserve this.”
• “You are not alone. I care about you and am here to listen or help in any way I can.”
• “I’m sorry this happened. This shouldn’t have happened to you.”
It’s also key to remember that recovery from sexual violence is different for every person. There is no timetable or right way to deal with the effects of sexual abuse.
Remember to avoid judgment and utilize patience as a survivor struggles with the long-term effects of their abuse. Check in periodically with the survivor. Even if the assault occurred a long time ago, the pain never completely disappears.
Also, recommend resources to help the assault victim. The National Sexual Assault Hotline is 800-656-4673. It is available 24 hours a day. You also may visit rainn.org for information.
“Sexual assault is never the victim’s fault, no matter what they were wearing, where they were or what they did or didn’t do,” Meyer said. “Sexual assault is entirely the fault of the attacker. The most important thing we all can do is to be aware and to listen when a victim confides in us. Help is available.”