April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April 20, 2007

During the month of April, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) is observing Sexual Assault Awareness Month. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents play a big role in educating their children about sexual abuse.

Sexual violence is a sex act completed or attempted against a person's will or against a person unable to consent because of age-appropriate cognitive ability, illness, disability or the influence of alcohol or other drugs. It may involve actual or threatened physical force, use of guns or other weapons, coercion, intimidation or pressure. Other forms of sexual exploitation include voyeurism, pornography, sexual harassment and online solicitation for sex.

Each year, approximately 1 percent of children are victims of sexual violence; by the time they are 18 years old, 12 to 25 percent of girls and 8 to 10 percent of boys will have experienced sexual violence. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 9 percent of high school students and 20 to 25 percent of young women in college are victims of sexual assault.

Sexual abuse during childhood has been associated with self-mutilating behaviors, mood and anxiety disorders, alcohol abuse, illicit drug use, teen pregnancy, increased risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections and chronic pain syndromes. Like victims, adolescent perpetrators may engage in other risky behaviors such as delinquent activities, running away and association with peers who have been in trouble with the law.

Parents can help keep their children safe from all kinds of violence by talking openly and comfortably with them about all topics, including those that may be difficult to discuss. Children need to know that their parents will listen, believe them and protect them if they are worried or if someone makes them uncomfortable. Ask the child's pediatrician for tips on how to keep children safe.

In addition, families should be aware that perpetrators of sexual violence usually are not strangers; they are often familiar people from the neighborhood, schools, community groups and even families. For a map showing known and registered sexual offenders in a specific area, visit http://www.12.familywatchdog.us online.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 19, 2009