Break the silence surrounding Sexual Assault & Child Abuse
April is Sexual Assault Awareness & Child Abuse Prevention Month
Did you know? False reports of sexual assault crimes accounts for only around 2% of cases. Despite this, we consistently hear that survivors must be just making it up.
Survivors of assault, rape, and abuse experience an emotional roller-coaster with trauma, shame, victim blaming, fear, and detriments to their self (esteem, worth, doubt). After an already traumatic and life-altering experience, survivors are met with victim blaming, disbelief, and shame. Instead of comfort, survivors hear things such as:
"What did you do to deserve it?"
"You must have asked for it."
"You led him on."
It's no surprise that many choose to remain silent. In fact, it's estimated that 67.5% of instances of rape are estimated to go unreported. Victims perceive they won't be believed, or they don't want to go through the pain of a criminal trial, being subjected to reliving the painful experience being judged by a jury. Even when rape is reported, it's rarely prosecuted. According to RAINN, only 5.7% of rape incidents lead to an arrest, only 1.1% of incidents are referred to a prosecutor, and only 0.7% are convicted of a felony. Even fewer lead to incarceration, with only 0.6% of incidents.
In particular, of all child abuse cases in Columbia & Greene Counties, sexual abuse accounts for nearly two-thirds (65%) of all child abuse cases handled with our Child Advocacy Center, however, these can be even more challenging to have reported. "Sexual abuse to a child can go on for months or even years before they tell someone, and some may never tell their story," said Paul Taylor, Director of Development & Communications for MHACG, "You have a fragile young person who may be threatened or coerced into keeping it secret and may be fearful of what repercussions there may be if they tell." It is estimated that 88% of child sexual abuse cases are not reported.
"Sexual abuse to a child can go on for months or even years before they tell someone, and some may never tell their story.
- Paul Taylor, MHACG
Every 68 seconds, someone is sexually assaulted.
The reality behind the perpetrator
We're taught through movies and television that a victim must be walking alone at night down a dark alley. While that can be the case, "It's often not some big scary thug that's hiding behind the bushes with a knife," Taylor said, "It's typically someone the person knows and trusts, and that relationship is used to commit the act, that's why it is so complicated." In fact, for adults, 8 out of 10 rapes are committed by someone known to the victim, and of child sexual abuse cases reported, 93% knew the perpetrator.
Even while a sexual assault is happening victims may be wondering, what could I have done to prevent this? What could I have done to stop this? Especially when the perpetrator is known, victims may be manipulated into thinking the incident was their fault. In reality, it is never the victim's fault. The most challenging hurdles to overcome is fear of not being believed and the blame they place on themselves following a sexual assault.
There are so many reasons as to why a survivor of sexual assault and abuse may not report. It comes down to when they feel safe enough to tell someone and how they deal with processing the traumatic incident.
Victims have rights and options. That is why our programs are so vital to the community. It's important for everyone to know they are not alone, and they don't have to navigate the process on their own.
About SAAM, CAP Month, and Pinwheel Gardens
Child Abuse Prevention Month, CAP Month, was first proclaimed in 1983 where child abuse and neglect awareness activities have been promoted across the country during April of each year.
Sexual Assault Awareness Month, SAAM, was officially declared in 2001 for both awareness and prevention of sexual assault, harassment, and abuse.
"What Wear You Wearing?" is an art exhibit based on student-survivor descriptions of the clothes they were wearing during their sexual assault. These stories were initially collected from survivors by Jen Brockman and Dr. Mary Wyandt-Hiebert at the University of Arkansas in 2013. Since the original exhibit geared toward college campuses, the showcase has expanded to dispel the victim-blaming that occurs with survivors of assault.
The exhibition aims at triggering conversations to end sexual abuse and gender violence. "What Were You Wearing?" invites observers to see the outfits worn by sexual assault survivors at the time of their attack, confronting and refuting the implicit victim-blaming in that question.
Join us for the "What Were You Wearing?" exhibit along with client artwork and the opportunity to share experiences and speak out at Lightforms Art Center, 746 Columbia Street, Hudson on Wednesday, April 26th from 3pm - 8pm. Light refreshments will be served.
Every 10 seconds, a report of child abuse is made.
In 2008, Prevent Child Abuse America introduced the Pinwheels for Prevention® campaign. It represents the childlike whimsical and lightheartedness we all want for our children.
Our Pinwheel Gardens represent our efforts to focus on positive family and community activities that supports prevention right from the start to make sure child abuse and neglect never occur. Pinwheel gardens will be displayed all throughout the community in local schools and businesses to raise awareness through the month of April, culminating in our Pinwheel Gardens Park Event at the end of the month, on April 29th in Hudson Riverfront Park from 11am - 2pm.
MHA of Columbia Greene is a non-profit organization committed to advancing mental health as a critical part of the overall health and wellbeing of our communities. Our REACH Center and Child Advocacy Center provide education, advocacy, and support to hundreds of adults and children across Columbia & Greene Counties. Help support our efforts with Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Prevention. Find out more and donate at mhacg.org/april.