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  • Becca W.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2022

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a month dedicated to recognizing the experiences of survivors of sexual violence. In recognition of this month, we are breaking down common myths about sexual assault – namely, who is a survivor of sexual assault. Generally, survivors are believed to be heterosexual women who are assaulted by a stranger. We recognize that women are disproportionately affected by sexual violence and gender based discrimination. It is also important to acknowledge the research that tells us there are survivors who are not women. We know that survivors can be LBGTQ+ and have any gender identity. We also know that more often than not, victims know their assailant. In order to fully understand and combat sexual assault, we must consider everyone who is victimized by sexual violence.

Here are some statistics about survivors of sexual assault:

  • According to a national survey of survivors, 75.4% of sexual coercion, including penetration, is committed by an intimate partner. Sexual coercion occurs when someone is pressured, forced, tricked, or threatened into agreeing to sexual activity. [1]

  • Nationwide, 81% of women report experiencing some form of sexual harassment and/or assault, with 1 in 5 women experiencing completed or attempted rape during their lifetime. [2]

  • A meta survey of 11 surveys reports that LGBTQ+ people experience sexual assault at the same rate or higher than their heterosexual counterparts. Further, they may even be more at risk than heterosexual people, though more research needs to be done. [3]

  • Almost 1 in 4 of American men have experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetimes. This includes rape, forced penetration, unwanted sexual contact, and sexual coercion. [4]

Addressing misconceptions of sexual assault can help survivors come forward and prevent future assault. For example, if someone is coerced into having sex with an intimate partner, that fits the definition of sexual assault. Someone may not identify as a survivor if their experience does not fit expectations. Further, those who exist outside of the norms surrounding sexual violence may feel even more shame about coming forward. Sexual violence is underreported overall, but it is especially so by people who experience more stigma after assault. For instance, many male survivors may feel uncomfortable coming forward because sexual assault is a “women’s issue” and doesn’t align with gender norms. Men may be asked why they didn’t fight back or, for men who are assaulted by women, why they allowed a woman to overpower and control them.

Understanding sexual assault requires us to consider those on the margins of the group we call “survivors.” Without addressing those survivors, we are not fully addressing the problem. Only when we are willing to address the experience and identities of all survivors can we bring an end to sexual violence and create a safer world for everyone.

At Sojourner, we serve survivors of sexual violence through our emergency shelter, community legal advocacy, and therapy services. Additionally, RAINN is a national organization that serves survivors of sexual violence. Visit their website or call the crisis line at 800.656.4673 / 800.656.HOPE to find support.


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