The month of April focuses on Sexual Assault Awareness (SAA), where people can come together and support survivors of sexual violence. SAA focuses on advocating for change, supporting victims and finding ways to prevent traumas for future generations of men and women. Every day there are people who are affected by sexual violence either by an intimate partner, parent or even a stranger. Throughout America, almost every two minutes, someone is sexually assaulted, and most of the time, the victim is a child. Sexual assault is focused on sexual contact or behavior that occurs without consent. Many who are affected by sexual violence are silenced; however, April brings a time for people to come forward with their stories. 

“In sexual assault cases regarding men assaulting women, most people seem to believe what the men have to say,” sophomore Chari Beamer said. “Although the United States is a place where women are able to speak their minds and come forward with such allegations, this country still has a long way to go when it comes to misogyny.” 

SAA Month first started with women’s protests, called Take Back the Night, which directly responded to the violence that women experienced on sidewalks at nighttime. Throughout the world, one in five women has either experienced rape or have been attempted to be raped during their lifetimes. Men are also not out of the equation, for one in 15 men are affected by unwanted sexual misconduct per year. Often many of the sexual assault experiences that both women and men have been through have been done by people they know. The many behaviors that fall under sexual assault include attempted rape, forcing someone to perform sexual acts or unwanted touching of someone else’s body. Many men during their adolescence have been pressured into non-consensual sexual experiences. 

“Approximately 71% of male have experienced some variant of sexual assault before the age of twenty-five,” the Center for Disease Control and Prevention said. “21.3% of males experienced penetration before the age of eighteen.” 

Throughout the years, there has been an increase in cases involving young children being sexually assaulted. These significant statistics include one in three girls and one in seven boys being sexually assaulted by the time they are 18. Children who are victims of sexual assault are affected psychologically, emotionally and physically. Common behavioral effects include anger issues, distrust towards others, no longer wanting to have physical contact with anyone, self-hatred, suicidal thoughts, depressive episodes, powerlessness and drug and alcohol abuse. The issue of sexual violence towards children is growing astronomically and becoming dangerous. The Department of Justice created a program called the Project Safe Childhood, which tries to combat the growth of child sexual exploitation and abuse. On the daily, men and women are being sent to jail for child pornography, sexual abuse, rape and many other disturbing things that no person or child should experience. 

“As seen in many cases today, people, especially women, do not come forward with statements sooner because of fear,” Beamer said. “They are afraid because of what may happen to them, of what society may think or say or they may feel ashamed and think the brutal experience that they went through was their fault. Most people stay silent and try to ‘forget’ the trauma they went through because there could be serious repercussions if they spoke out.”

Someone who has experienced sexual assault can be a child, adult, man or woman, and can be of any race or ethnicity. Awareness for all survivors of sexual assault needs to be increased through support. Sexual assault needs to be discussed for people should not feel like they have to keep silent about their stories. April brings to light the dangers of sexual assault and how it impacts more than a few men and women. 

“Those who are willing to share their experiences of sexual violence are brave. Being assaulted is not the victim’s fault. The people who should be ashamed and embarrassed are the perpetrators. No matter if someone is female, male or gender fluid, everyone is a human being. As people, we should have the decency to respect one another, which includes respecting other people’s bodies,” English teacher Lauren Fantle said. “Blaming victims and shaming them is the easy way out when society should be asking ‘Why is this happening?’ Sexual violence is about control and violence. ‘Why do these people feel the need to be violent?’ It does not matter what the victim was wearing. The only thing that matters is that clothing is not an excuse for unethical behavior.”

Many people are driven by silence due to fear, but everyone should be able to have the opportunity to express their needs and stories; however, they should also never feel pressured to talk. It is someone else’s story, and though they will choose to either tell it or not, April’s SAA gives them the opportunity to speak up. SAA is a great way to talk and remove the band of silence so that one day, young children, men and women do not feel the need to be silenced any longer. Ways for everyone to bring awareness to sexual assault include educating oneself, giving support to survivors/victims, donating money to organizations, finding hotlines that can help oneself or another person and attending SAA events. 

“Sadly, society will always have to deal with the dangers of sexual assault, but by bringing awareness to it, individuals will be able to learn that they are not alone and find resources within their community to help them” junior Iman Iqbal said. “While society won’t necessarily be moving forward from this topic, the spreading of awareness can provide victims of sexual assault with the tools for them to move forward. I think that talking about sexual assault more will help encourage victims to come forward, which would help depict to the public that these sexual encounters are something that so many people experience.”