By: Darlene Masters, Executive Director at Family Advocates
With April being Sexual Assault Awareness Month as well as Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month, advocates at Family Advocates are very busy. While these are nationally recognized awareness and prevention months, the impact of both of these societal issues are a daily struggle. I often find “months” helpful to get people talking about whatever the cause is for that month, but we should be putting focus on so many important causes and preventions on an ongoing basis. Often people are given these months of focus as a way to discuss issues or causes, especially the ones that are so hard to talk about. Sexual assault and child abuse are not comfortable topics for the vast majority of people.
Child abuse speaks to the hearts of many. I’m sure you know someone who has been a victim of child abuse, or maybe you have been a victim yourself. There is more and more attention being brought to the topic and yet we have a hard time talking about it. We are all responsible to step up and protect children. Youth do not have the ability to take this upon themselves and often do not tell anyone of the abuse that is happening at home. Many times children feel that what is happening to them is “normal” because it is all that they know. The same is true about neglect. If you have never had something, you may not know what you should be getting or what is missing. Child abuse and neglect is very prevalent and is often not seen or heard until something catastrophic happens.
Now, let’s talk about sexual assault. Eek! An even harder topic to talk about. And yet, I am sure that you know someone that has been a victim of this crime, or are a victim yourself. If you say “actually, I don’t know anyone”, trust me, you do. They just may not have disclosed that to you. Sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes in the United States and yet statistics state that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men have been sexually assaulted. This number varies based on where you get your statistics. The variations I have found would say 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men which is even more disheartening. Now, remember, I stated that sexual assault is vastly underreported, so imagine what those numbers might look like if all victims/survivors reported.
Sexual assault is NOT about sex. It is about having power and control over another person. It happens between all genders and gender identities, all socioeconomic classes, all ethnicities, all religions, etc. It does not discriminate. Add to that the fact that rape culture is alive and well in our world (still!). I’m sure you have heard the saying “sex sells”. How true, and yet, how sad.
We must start talking about both of these issues. We must hold perpetrators accountable for their actions. We must be better. We must do better. I invite you to increase your knowledge about these topics and more by visiting our website at www.familyadv.org or give us a call at 608-348-5995 to talk to an advocate. We have volunteer opportunities as well as staff who can come to your business or organization to talk about the services at Family Advocates and how we can help you and those you serve in the community.