April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, and organizations like Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, as well as the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, are trying to get the word out about what sexual assault is and how to prevent it.
Sexual assault is a broad term that includes many types of unwanted sexual contact. Sexual assault includes rape, fondling, incest, attempted rape, child molestation, sexual harassment and other acts and behaviors. Some states and laws have different definitions or use the term interchangeably with rape.
Although men can be sexually assaulted, women are more often victims. According to RAINN's website, "1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime," whereas "about 3 percent of American men — or 1 in 33 — have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime."
“Each day, people witness a continuum of behaviors that range from being respectful and safe, to sexually abusive and violent,” said Tracy Cox, the communications director for NSVRC, in an email. “The 2011 Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) campaign explores common, everyday behaviors and offers individuals viable, responsible ways to intervene.”
Cox said some ways people can help prevent sexual assault is to "stand up for victims and believe them," "speak up when you hear harmful comments or witness violent acts," and "create policies at your workplace, agency, or school system to stop sexual violence and help victims."
Although it’s too soon to tell how this year’s response compares to others, she said that there has been a lot of feedback, including a proclamation from President Barack Obama.
“Our nation must continue to confront rape and other forms of sexual violence as a deplorable crime,” Obama said in his proclamation. “Too many victims suffer unaided, and too many offenders elude justice. As we mark National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, we recommit to building a society where no woman, man, or child endures the fear of assault or the pain of an attack on their physical well being and basic human dignity."