April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month
Taos Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners are Available Year Round
Sexual violence is a widespread issue that impacts everyone including children, teens, adults, and elders.
- One in six boys and one in four girls will experience a sexual assault before the age 18
- 90% of people sexually assaulted know the assailant
- For every case that is reported, at least 10 aren’t ever reported
Sexual assault is ANY unwanted sexual contact or threat. Sexual violence is a broad term that occurs when someone is forced or manipulated into unwanted sexual activity without consent, and includes:
- Child sexual abuse
- Intimate partner violence
- Sexual exploitation
- Human trafficking
- Unwanted sexual contact
- Sexual harassment
These crimes are widespread and occur daily in our communities, schools, and workplaces, but sexual violence can be prevented if we change the underlying norms and culture that allows sexual violence. When people are abused it can affect every aspect of their lives. The goal of sexual violence prevention is to stop it from ever happening.
Survivors of sexual violence have experienced trauma, and each person reacts differently to trauma. Some disclose immediately, but many never talk about what happened to them, or wait years to talk about it. The emotional impact of sexual abuse or violence can include shock, denial, fear, confusion, anxiety, withdrawal, post-traumatic stress disorder, nervousness and distrust. The anger and stress that victims feel may lead to eating disorders or depression, and some may consider or attempt suicide.
Sexual violence can lead to long-term health problems. According to the Center for Disease Control, more than 32,000 pregnancies result from rape every year. Long-term consequences include chronic pain, headaches, stomach problems, and sexually transmitted diseases. It is also linked to negative health behaviors: victims are more likely to smoke, abuse alcohol, or drugs, and engage in risky sexual activity.
Sexual assault can make many victims shy away from having a clinical sexual assault examination. Many cases are not reported. Victims are often afraid to tell someone about the abuse. Sometimes victims might have been threatened with further harm if they do tell. However, the sooner a victim gets help the soon the recovery process will start.
When someone discloses sexual abuse, appreciate their resilience, strength, and bravery, listen to them, and allow them to share the amount of information that they are comfortable sharing. If a survivor wants to share with you, allow them to do so in their own way, in their own words and in their own time.
6 ways you can be a part of the sexual violence solution:
- Be a role model for respectful behavior to those around you.
- Talk with your children about healthy sexual development and personal boundaries.
- Intervene and speak up when you see inappropriate behavior. To better equip yourself in these situations, practice what you might say or do.
- Talk to someone from your local sexual assault center for more information. Invite them to speak in your schools, faith communities or workplaces.
- Learn more about sexual violence and share information with others.
- Learn about reporting suspected child abuse. Know what to do if you or someone you know suspects a child may be being abused.
And be mindful of your own responses:
- Create a safe space for them to talk and share. Allow them control over the environment as much as possible.
- Believe them. Survivors often struggle with disclosing abuse due to fear of not being believed. It takes immense bravery for them to trust you and share the details of their story.
- If the victim is a youth, be open and honest about your responsibilities. Children and teens have a right to be safe, valued and respected. Connect them with community resources or trained professionals to provide continued support.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, the Holy Cross Hospital’s Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program is available 24/7 to help anyone over the age of 13. Trained nurse examiners from SANE can see victims within five days of the assault. They care for medical needs, and collect evidence that can be used at the time of the assault or in the future.
The program is free, confidential, accessible without having to notify police, able to offer treatment for sexually transmitted infections, and able to provide referrals for follow up care.
Call 575-751-8990 or 1-855-SANE (7263)