|Sexual Violence is a serious and widespread problem that has lasting impacts on individuals, families and communities. Sexual violence consists of a range of unacceptable behaviors, including rape, incest, molestation, date and acquaintance rape, sextortion, statutory rape, marital or partner rape, ritual abuse, sexual exploitation, forced prostitution, indecent sexual contact, sexual harassment, exhibitionism and voyeurism.
In the United States, sexual violence is a pervasive and serious public health problem (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Approximately 20% of women and 1.7% of men have been raped in their lifetimes. Of those, nearly 80% of women were raped before the age of 25, with 40% experiencing their first rape between the ages of 11 and 17; and 28% of men were first raped before their 10th birthdays.
- Additionally, 44% of women and 23% of men experienced other forms of sexual violence during their lives, including sexual coercion, unwanted sexual contact, and other non-contact sexual experiences.
- The continuum of sexual violence is often rooted in power imbalances and coercion. This is the case in the crime of sextortion, where people in positions of authority abuse their power as a way to coerce sexual acts or images from victims and to keep them silent. Decades of research show the negative consequences and costs that all forms of sexual violence can incur on individuals, relationships, communities, and our larger society. This must end.
- Preventing sexual violence is possible and it is happening. But more must be done. We all play a role in creating communities that are free from sexual violence. The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) and a network of 50 rape crisis centers partner with community members to prevent sexual violence throughout the Commonwealth. Funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to operate the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, PCAR develops and provides evidence-based prevention programs, based on the principles of effective prevention. These strategies are critical to the health of our major social systems—schools, child care agencies, workplaces, athletics, health care, legal systems, and others—to move upstream and stop sexual violence before it occurs.
- While prevention is a daily and ongoing priority, April is the designated month to focus on sexual assault and its prevention, through Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). This year’s SAAM theme is “Embrace Your Voice”: https://www.nsvrc.org/saam
- Therefore, in the near future, I will be introducing a Resolution designating the month of April as “Sexual Assault Awareness Month” in Pennsylvania.