We Believe You: The Harsh Realities of Sexual Violence

By Lacey George | MAEd Student, UAB Community Health & Human Services

Photo by Duanu00e9 Viljoen on Pexels.com

Conversations surrounding the controversial topic of sexual violence, and its effects on survivors, their loved ones, and our society, have been increasing over time. In light of the
#METOO movement, sexual abuse, assault, and violence survivors are finally given a voice to tell their story, sometimes years later. Because of this, we are finally confronting the
realities of what those brave women, men, and children have endured.

Sexual Violence is too Common

  • Each year, sexual assaults occur in approximately 463,634 Americans, which is roughly 1 every 68 seconds.
  • More than 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced sexual violence, including physical contact in their lifetimes.

Sexual Violence Starts Early:

  • 1 in 3 females will experience rape between the ages of 11-17 years of age, and 1 in 8 experience it before the age of 10.

The effects of sexual violence are long-lasting and far-reaching. Sexual violence negatively affects the survivor’s quality of life, psychological wellbeing, and social opportunities, such as dating and social isolation. Sexual violence intersects with many chronic health problems, such as sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancies, depression, and sexual health problems. Moreover, sexual violence is linked to adverse health behaviors. For example, victims are more likely to smoke, abuse alcohol, use drugs, and engage in risky sexual activities.

Stopping sexual violence before it has the chance to occur has become the primary focus of sexual violence prevention efforts. This type of prevention effort focuses on changing out-of-date beliefs and victim-blaming attitudes and framing sexual violence as a significant public health problem. To effectively prevent sexual violence, we must make the connection between all forms of oppression (including racism, homophobia, sexism, adultism, and many others) and how oppression has created a culture in which inequality thrives, and violence is seen as the norm.

Actions to Prevent Sexual Violence:

  • Promoting social norms that protect against sexual violence encourages men and boys to be allies for others.
  • Teaching skills that can prevent sexual violence, such as teaching safe-dating and intimate relationships skills, promoting healthy sexuality, and teaching healthy coping mechanisms to adolescents.
  • Creating protecting environments, such as improving safety and monitoring in schools, community centers, and workplaces.

Alabama & Local Resources for Support:

References:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Prevention strategies. Retrieved on February 2, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/sexualviolence/prevention.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.) Sexual Violence. Retrieved on February 2, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/index.html

Cherniavsky, E. (2019). Keyword 1: #MeToo. Differences, 30(1), 15–23. https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-7481176

Jaffe, S. (2018). The collective power of #MeToo. Dissent, 65(2), 80-87. https://doi.org/10.1353/dss.2018.0031

Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network. (2020). About sexual assault. Retrieved on January 29, 2021, from https://rainn.org/about-sexual-assault

Smith SG, Zhang X, Basile KC, Merrick MT, Wang J, Kresnow M, & Chen J. (2018). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2015 Data Brief— Updated Release. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved on January 28, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/2015data-brief508.pdf

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