Results from the U.S. Department of Justice's National Crime Victimization Survey show that every two minutes, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted.
According to the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, or WCASA, one in three women and one in six men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. In the Wisconsin Rapids area, there were 58 sexual assaults reported in 2012, and studies indicate that only about 50 percent of sexual assaults actuallyare reported to the police. These startling statistics clearly show that there is a need to educate the public about sexual violence.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, or SAAM. The purpose of SAAM is to raise awareness, motivate members of our community to work toward ending sexual violence, and show support for survivors of sexual abuse and assault.
So, what is sexual assault? In Wisconsin, sexual assault is ANY sexual contact without consent. Consent is not legally valid if a person younger than 18 or if a person's judgment is impaired by mental illness, drugs or alcohol. Consent also is void if it was forced or coerced.
There are many misconceptions about the meaning of consent. According to WCASA, legal consent IS "words or overt actions indicating a FREELY given agreement." Consent IS NOT "the absence of a negative, silence, implied or a failure to fight back."
Staff members at the Family Center are working to educate our community about sexual violence. The Family Center is a nonprofit organization that provides safe shelter and support services to victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault. During April, there are several events/activities that the Family Center is hosting in order to promote awareness.
One important event is a Sexual Assault Awareness Month Proclamation. This proclamation will be given by Mayor Zach Vruwink on Tuesday. Another event is a self-defense class that will be taught by Master John Chrystal from the Park Institute of Tae Kwon Do from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. April 19. This class is free of charge and open to the public. Contact the Family Center if you are interested in attending.
The Family Center is also sponsoring a writing contest and an art contest at Lincoln High School and providing teal awareness ribbons for law enforcement agencies throughout Wood County.
There are several easy things you can do to promote sexual assault awareness during April. For example, wear a teal awareness ribbon or put a ribbon on your car - stop by the Family Center if you are in need of ribbons.
You can change your Facebook profile picture to one that promotes SAAM. Please invite your friends to show their support by changing their profile pictures as well.
Most importantly, talk to your children about sexual development in order to promote healthy and appropriate behaviors. Please visit www.familyctr.org or call 715-421-1511 to learn more about SAAM and what you can do to show your support.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual assault, call the Family Center's Sexual Assault Hotline (877-318-0003) or the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800-656-HOPE).