Sexual Assault: Awareness, Prevention, and Resources
By: Autumn Gallegos, Ph.D.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a campaign to raise awareness and educate communities on prevention strategies.1 Sexual violence can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, age, ethnic background, or socioeconomic status. In the U.S., sexual assault is the most frequently reported traumatic event,2 experienced by 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men.3 Further, exposure to sexual assault places individuals at risk of developing posttraumatic stress disorder and major depressive disorder. Below are signs of abuse from an intimate partner, strategies for prevention, and ways to respond to sexual abuse.
Signs of Abuse4
People who are being abused may:
- Seem afraid or anxious to please their partner
- Go along with everything their partner says and does
- Check in often with their partner to report where they are and what they’re doing
- Receive frequent, harassing phone calls from their partner
- Talk about their partner’s temper, jealousy, or possessiveness
- Be restricted from seeing family and friends
- Rarely go out in public without their partner
- Have limited access to money, credit cards, or the car
Does your partner:
- Insult, demean or embarrass you with put-downs?
- Control what you do, who you talk to, or where you go?
- Look at you or act in ways that scare you?
- Push you, slap you, choke you, or hit you?
- Stop you from seeing your friends or family members?
- Control the money in the relationship - take your money or Social Security check, make you ask for money, or refuse to give you money?
- Make all of the decisions without your input or consideration of your needs?
- Tell you that you’re a bad parent or threaten to take away your children?
- Prevent you from working or attending school?
- Act like the abuse is no big deal, deny the abuse, or tell you it’s your own fault?
- Destroy your property or threaten to kill your pets?
- Intimidate you with guns, knives, or other weapons?
- Attempt to force you to drop criminal charges?
- Threaten to commit suicide, or threaten to kill you?
Preventing Sexual Violence
Prevention requires addressing factors at individual, relational, community, and societal levels. The CDC has designed an approach to stop sexual violence.5 Consider how these strategies might be implemented in your workplace, school, neighborhood, or place of worship:
Responding to Sexual Violence
It can be difficult to know how to respond to someone who tells you they have been sexually assaulted. Here are some specific phrases RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline6 recommends:
- "I believe you. / It took a lot of courage to tell me about this."
- "It’s not your fault. / You didn’t do anything to deserve this."
- "You are not alone. / I care about you and am here to listen or help in any way I can."
- "I’m sorry this happened. / This shouldn’t have happened to you."
Consider the following ways to continue your support:
- Avoid judgment
- Check in periodically
- Know your resources (listed below)
Help is Available
If you need to talk to someone, please consider contacting:
- HEAL: (585) 275-HEAL
- Willow Domestic Violence Center: (585) 222-SAFE
- Resolve: (585) 425-1580
- National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or chat online at online.rainn.org
- National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224
Behavioral Health Partners is brought to you by Well-U, offering eligible individuals mental health services for stress, anxiety, and depression. Our team of mental health professionals can accurately assess your symptoms and make recommendations for treatment. To schedule an intake appointment, give us a call at (585) 276-6900.
2Shalev A, Liberzon I, Marmar C. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. N Engl J Med 2017;376:2459-69
Keith Stein |