The prevalence of sexual assault in this nation is a tragedy that must be addressed. Over one million women are raped each year. Within their lifetimes, 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men will be sexually assaulted. Our nation’s youth are at the greatest risk; young women age 16 to 24 experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault. One in five will be sexually assaulted while they’re in college.
These victims will suffer the effects of rape for the rest of their lives. Survivors of sexual assault are twice as likely to use mental health services as other women, and have high rates of PTSD, depression, anxiety, and suicide. Too few victims get the justice they deserve; sexual assault is the most underreported violent crime in America.
The violence must end, and it is with this goal in mind that President Obama declared the month of April to be National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. But our commitment does not end with a proclamation. This Administration vows to increase awareness and create a safe environment for all. We are mobilizing federal agencies to make a difference and affect change. As the President explains in the proclamation:
“Under Vice President Joe Biden's leadership, my Administration is committed to engaging a broad spectrum of Federal agencies and community partners to prevent sexual assault, support victims, and hold offenders accountable. The Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women is leading the Sexual Assault Demonstration Initiative to improve the way sexual assault survivors are served. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is funding innovative prevention campaigns that engage bystanders in reducing sexual assault, and the Department of Education is working to combat sexual violence at schools and universities.”
These actions are part of the Obama Administration’s unprecedented, comprehensive strategy to combat violence against women. There is never any excuse for sexual violence, and this Administration is committed to supporting victims and holing perpetrators accountable.
The President noted that, “Each victim of sexual assault represents a sister or a daughter, a nephew or a friend. We must break the silence so no victim anguishes without resources or aid in their time of greatest need.” This month we stand with all victims, we speak for those whose voices have been silenced, and we strive for a world in which no person ever experiences the horror of sexual assault.
For more information, please visit http://www.nsvrc.org/saam/current-campaign.
Lynn Rosenthal is the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women