Wednesday, April 11, 2012

It’s Time to Talk about It | Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Every April, Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) sheds light on a solemn problem that affects people of every age and background. According to a national study, one in three girls and one in seven boys will be sexually abused before their 17th birthday. The U.S. Department of Justice reports nearly one assault every two and a half minutes in the United States.

The 2012 Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM)
campaign centers on promoting healthy sexuality to
prevent sexual violence.
Sexual assault takes many forms and includes attacks such as rape or attempted rape, and any unwanted sexual contact or threats. Grievously, the majority of assailants are either an intimate partner, family member, acquaintance or friend of the victim, not a stranger.

The effects of sexual violence are devastating and can lead to a lifetime of complex health, mental health and behavioral struggles. Studies show that sexual assault victims may experience physical effects such as pain, injuries, nausea, vomiting and headaches. Emotional and psychological effects may include denial, anger, depression, numbness, nightmares, loss of self-esteem, shame, substance abuse and psychological disorders. Physiological effects may include hyper vigilance, insomnia, panic attacks, eating disorders, self-mutilation, and sexual dysfunction or hyper arousal.

The California Victim Compensation Program (CalVCP) helps thousands of victims every year address the physical, emotional and psychological effects related to sexual assault. Last fiscal year alone, CalVCP processed over 4,000 sexual assault claims and provided over $4 million in assistance to sexually violated victims. The Program provided sexual assault victims with crime-related financial assistance for hospital and ambulance expenses, relocation expenses, medical testing and treatment, x-ray exams, mental health counseling and dental treatment.

Join CalVCP, along with other victim advocates and agencies, in spreading awareness about sexual assault. Many counties throughout the state are hosting SAAM events; check out CALCASA’s SAAM events calendar frequently for updates. While nothing can erase a tragic experience, we can each do our part to stand with victims, raise awareness and share prevention strategies. As the National campaign suggests, it’s time to talk about it. Let us commit to educating our communities on how to prevent sexual violence.

If you or someone you know is in danger, please call 9-1-1 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233), or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673). View this directory of Crisis Centers in CA to obtain information on a center near you.

Portrait of Julie Nauman
Julie Nauman is the Executive Officer for the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board (VCGCB), appointed in 2008. VCGCB provides compensation for victims of violent crime and helps to resolve claims against the State.