April is Sexual Abuse Awareness Month


The Center for Disease Control reports that nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the United States have been raped in their lifetime. These statistics exclude the 44.6% women and 22.2% men that have have experienced sexual violence other than rape in their lives. Sexual violence is not limited to rape, but it includes sexual coercion, unwanted sexual contact, and verbal sexual harassment. Not all cases of sexual violence or assault are reported to the authorities. The Rape and Incest National Network (RAINN) says that an estimate of 54% of rape and sexual assaults were unreported between a span of 5 years.

We have to wonder if more than half of sexual assaults going unreported is a result of societies' rape culture and victim shaming. In recent high profiled cases like the Steubenville case, the nation followed the trial and prosecution of two Ohio male teens accused of raping their seemingly unconscious female classmate while taping the crude acts with others looking on. Two female teens were also arrested for sending the victim threatening Twitter messages, accusing her of destroying lives. There was a huge uproar on Twitter with everyone using the hashtag #Steubenville to discuss the case and their opinion on America's rape culture. Although the teens were convicted for their crimes and talk of the case has since died down, we were confronted with another ugly face of sexual violence, the aftermath.

What happens to the emotional and mental state of the victim after they come forward about the sexual crimes committed against them? Last fall,15 year old California teen, Audrie Pott committed suicide after being sexually assaulted by a group of classmates and having pictures from the assault go viral. Pott's parents knew nothing of the sexual acts committed against her until after her death. Just a couple of weeks ago Canadian teen, Rehtaeh Parsons committed suicide after her alleged attackers began bullying her and posted photos of the gang rape online to further humiliate her. There are questions of whether or not the police initially handled such serious allegations properly and there has been a recent petition to reopen the investigation. The Canadian police are now looking into the crime nearly two years after the incident took place and young Rehtaeh's life is over.

In honor of Sexual Abuse Awareness Month organizations hashtag #SAAM to announce their contributions in the fight to end sexual violence. Cases like Steubenville are highlighted with many vocal on their positions to end sexual violence and bullying. RAINN now has a online hotline that provides support to victims of sexual assault in conjunction with their over the phone National Sexual Assault Hotline. Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer, Brooklyn Borough President Mary Markowitz, and local organizations are preparing for Denim Day NYC. These groups will stand together wearing denim, in honor of the 1998 case where the Italian Supreme Court overturned a rape conviction because the victim wore tight jeans. Their argument was that the victim had to have helped her assailant take them off, therefore consenting. Denim Day has grown into a national movement with rallies around the nation standing in solidarity against sexual violence.

The Denim Day NYC Rally and press conference will take place at noon Wednesday, April 24, 2013 on the steps of City Hall. To join the conversation #DenimDayNYC on Twitter and find out how you can support local organizations.