April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
I tried to think up a catchy sentence to open with, but this subject is so important, it’s best to just be clear and simple: During April, let’s raise awareness, become more educated, rally around survivors and work to prevent sexual assault. Many people toil tirelessly year-round in these efforts, but setting aside one month each year helps to shine an extra bright light on the pandemic of sexual assault.
The statistics are sobering. According to the Utah Department of Health, studies show that one in six women and one in 25 men experience rape or attempted rape at least once in their lifetimes. Nearly one in three women will experience some sort of sexual violence in their lifetime.
While other violent crimes such as homicide, robbery and aggravated assault tend to occur in Utah at half to three times lower than the national average, rape is the only violent crime that is higher than the national average. In fact, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the rape rate in Utah in 2019 was significantly higher than the United States rate at 56.8 per 100,000 adults, compared to 42.6 per 100,000 adults.
So, what can we do to decrease and prevent these crimes from happening? According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov, some strategies have been identified that will work against the prevalence of sexual assaults. These include promoting social norms that protect against violence, teaching skills that prevent sexual violence such as safe dating skills for adolescents, providing opportunities to empower and support girls and women, creating protective environments such as workplace policies and monitoring in schools and supporting survivors of these assaults.
Brigham Young University kicked off the month last week with events aimed at bringing awareness to the seriousness of sexual assault. Some of these included a “Chalk the Walk” event, which illustrated the theme of “Imagine the world without sexual assault,” an Awareness Gallery teaching facts and myths, a panel on online safety and “Just Ask,” a workshop about consent and healthy relationships.
Some of the chalk art depicted a world without sexual assault as less anxiety, beautiful, feeling less judged for being male, happier, worry free, less fear, better mental health, more respectful and safe enough to walk alone at night.
We want our world to be safe enough to walk alone at night. Shining a light on sexual assault during the month of April is a good first step. In my next column on April 17, I will share ways that people in Utah County are fighting against the problem and where to turn to for help.