DPH and Community Leaders Partner to Prevent Sexual Violence

April 27, 2015

During April, the annual recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), DPH is working to educate the public on how to proactively reduce instances of sexual violence.

While awareness activities take place throughout the year, this month is filled with community exhibits, rallies, films and theatre events to bring notice to the prevalence, scope and impact of sexual violence on individuals and communities.

A recently launched campaign, It’s On Us, coordinated by the Center for American Progress, the White House Council on Women and Girls and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office on Women’s Health (OWH) aims to help people act faster when seeing sexual violence occur.

The campaign touts four primary actions: recognize that non-consensual sex is sexual assault; identify situations where sexual assault may occur; intervene in situations where consent has not or cannot be given; and create an environment where sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.

Community members are asked to take the It’s On Us pledge at www.ItsOnUs.org to commit to preventing sexual violence acts in their community.

Public health is most commonly associated with protecting citizens from chronic diseases, injuries and other preventable illnesses, but it also plays a significant role in sexual violence prevention. In this context, primary prevention means to stop the first-time perpetration of sexual violence.

Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) in 2010 indicates that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 7 boys will be victimized by the age of 18.

Adult survivors of childhood sexual victimization often experience re-victimization, as well as chronic psychological and physical problems ranging from addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder to auto-immune diseases, digestive disorders and various forms of health risk behaviors.

Furthermore, the lifetime prevalence of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner against a woman is 1,310,000 and 1,410,000 (mostly physical violence) against a man.

There are even more concerning statistics from the 2014 Responding to Transgender Sexual Assault study from the Office of Victims of Crime (OVC), a division of the Office of Justice Programs within the U.S. Department of Justice.

The study demonstrates that sexual violence is prominent among younger demographics and the LBGTQ community, including adolescents. Approximately 48 percent of bisexual women were first raped between the ages of 11 and 17. Additionally, a 2009 study revealed that approximately 50 percent of transgender people experience sexual violence at some point in their lifetime. 

The CDC outlines a broad range of behaviors that can be described as sexual violence; however, the broadest definition of sexual violence is any sexual behavior where consent is not freely given.

“Our goal is to help the community recognize the broad scope of what sexual violence is,” said Mosi Bayo, program manager, Sexual Violence Prevention Program, DPH Chronic Disease Prevention Section. “We also want the public to understand that preventing sexual violence is more than risk reduction. Our focus is to prevent sexual violence before it begins – it’s on the perpetrator to stop sexual assault before it happens, not the victim.”

DPH takes a unified approach to sexual assault prevention by building networks of both sexual assault centers and non-traditional partners.

“We are fighting sexual violence in Georgia by seeking new partnerships with parks and recreation departments, after school programs, athletic programs, higher education institutions and many others,” Bayo said. “We also want to engage men who can discuss the topic in a credible way to educate other males about sexual violence and what they can do to stop it.”

To learn more about sexual assault or support someone that has been the victim of sexual violence, visit DPH’s Sexual Violence Prevention Program online to access a list of sexual violence partners and services in Georgia. 

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