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April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Thursday, April 13th, 2017

At the age of sixteen, Consuelo went to a party with some friends after work. At the party, one of her co-workers raped her.  Had she been a witness to her own rape, she would have immediately named it rape, but because it happened to her and not someone else, she feared she had done something to ask for it. Consuelo never told anyone about what happened and the 18 year old boy that raped her never had to acknowledge that he had done anything wrong. This is not a unique story.  In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control’s 2010 survey, nearly 1 in 5 women have been raped in their lifetime and nearly 1 in 71 men have been raped in their lifetime. During the month of April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Casa de Esperanza: National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities would like to take this opportunity to honor survivors of rape and other forms of sexual assault by breaking the silence and sharing some resources with you about how to support Latin@ survivors.

Sexual assault is any type of sexual activity that a person does not agree to or does not have the age or capability to consent to. The abuse may include: unwanted touch, rape, attempted rape, marital rape, child molestation, or incest. While the definition of sexual assault is clear, these acts have often been normalized by blaming victims and excusing or turning a blind eye to the behaviors of perpetrators. This situation prevents many survivors from feeling safe to disclose that they have been assaulted or raped. Other factors that create barriers to seeking help include: not wanting to expose the perpetrator which is often known to the victim (friend, spouse, family member, partner, care giver, colleague, etc.), not knowing any resources that exist, fear of retaliation by the perpetrator towards them or loved ones, fear of being blamed and punished by family/community, and lack of understanding of their rights. If survivors don’t receive the support they need to heal (which can be a long and slow process), it can have very negative consequences on the person’s emotional, physical, sexual, spiritual, and daily well-being.

The National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities is a network of individuals and organizations committed to improving the health and well-being of Latin@ communities. The network is led by Casa de Esperanza, a national Latina organization whose mission is to mobilize Latinas and Latin@ communities to end domestic violence. The goal is to build bridges and connections among research, practice and policy to advance effective responses to eliminate violence and to promote healthy relationships within Latin@ families and communities.  Casa de Esperanza is also a member of the Steering Committee of the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence and helped lead efforts to reauthorize and improve the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This bipartisan legislation, which was signed into law by President Obama on March 7, 2013, improves access to resources for sexual assault services and strengthens protections for immigrant victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, among many other important improvements to help all victims.

Ultimately, Casa de Esperanza believes that it is the community that will help prevent and end sexual and domestic violence. Here are a few things you can do to support survivors and to prevent sexual assault from happening to those around you:

  • When you talk to a survivor validate her/his story by saying you believe them and want to support them
  • Let them know it’s not their fault. There are no circumstances that justify sexual assault
  • Ask them if they need to go to the hospital or want to file a police report (all victims have rights to access services of the courts, police, and rape crisis centers or domestic violence shelters regardless of their immigration status. VAWA legislation also created special immigration remedies for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence).
  • Let them know they are not alone and help connect them to advocacy resources.

To prevent sexual assault and rape:

  • Create an environment of zero tolerance for sexist comments and acts. Help spread the word that alcohol use never justifies sexual assault
  • Continue to educate yourself and others on how to stop rape culture. Rape is not an act of passion, but an abusive act of power and control.
  • Hold others accountable for using language and actions that are sexually offensive and dehumanizing
  • Do not allow others to blame victims for being raped or sexually assaulted
  • Educate others on what sexual assault is and how we all must work to prevent it

Sexual assault is one of the most degrading forms of violence a person can endure and it is something we can all work together to stop.  What will you do next to promote sexual assault awareness and prevention efforts?

Below is a list of additional resources:

Casa de Esperanza:  www.casadeesperanza.org

National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families & Communities: www.nationallatinonetwork.org

Existe Ayuda Toolkit/Arte Sana: http://www.arte-sana.com/existe_ayuda/existe_ayuda_toolkit.htm

National Sexual Violence Resource Center: www.nsvrc.org

National Sexual Assault Hotline:  1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

 

This blog post was written by Ambar Hanson, Senior Trainer, and Rosie Hidalgo, Director of Public Policy, at Casa de Esperanza: National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities. This blog was originally published in April 2013.

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