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County of Santa Clara Observes April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Education and Involvement Encouraged to Prevent this Crime
SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. –Nearly one in five women (22 million) in the United States have been raped at some point in their lives, including 1.3 million women in the past 12 months, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). County of Santa Clara officials are proclaiming April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month and encourage the public to view sexual violence not only as a direct threat to the well-being of individuals and families, but a crime that can damage entire communities.
 
“Sexual assault continues to be one of the most serious, pervasive yet underreported crimes, despite causing significant financial costs in medical services, the criminal justice system, mental health and labor,” said President Dave Cortese, County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors.  “We need to promote a culture of respect and accountability to make strides in prevention.” 
 
Sexual assault is any forced, coerced or unwanted sexual contact. Sexual violence is best understood as unwelcomed, non-consensual, non-mutual sexual activities that range from subtle to extremely violent. Consent is voluntary, mutual and can be withdrawn at any time because of fear, age, illness, disability, and/or influence of alcohol or other drugs or any other reason.
 
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, sexual violence can be experienced by everyone, including men, women, children, teens, adults, and elders no matter their gender, age,  race, religion, income, profession, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. The United Nations Development Fund for Women reveals that at least one of every three women globally will be beaten, raped or otherwise abused during her lifetime.   Nearly 1 in 2 women (44.6 percent) has experienced sexual violence victimization other than rape. Victims often know the person who assaulted them. They can be acquaintances, family members and trusted individuals.   More than half of women who are sexually assaulted in the U.S. are raped by a current or former partner. 
 
“The impact of sexual assault goes beyond individuals.  The County is committed to promoting services that help our families, neighborhoods and communities be safe, and resources to readily assist victims of this deplorable crime, and to ensure offenders are accountable for their actions,” said County of Santa Clara Supervisor Mike Wasserman, Chair of the Board’s Public Safety and Justice Committee.
 
Even though women of all ages are at risk of sexual violence, young women between the ages of 20 and 24 experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault, followed by those 16 to 19 years old. This crime also impacts men. Research reveals that in the United States one in five men (22 percent) have experienced sexual violence victimization other than rape in their lifetime.
 
Sexual violence incidents are often not reported.  Reasons listed by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center for someone choosing not to report to law enforcement or tell anyone about a sexual violence experience may include: concern about not being believed; fear of the attackers getting back at them; shame or fear of being blamed; pressure from others not to tell; distrust of law enforcement; belief that there is not enough evidence; and desire to protect the attacker.  Regardless of what someone is wearing or how they are acting, victims are never at fault for sexual violence against them.   A person may use force, threats, manipulation, or coercion to commit sexual violence.  The crime is not minimized by the absence of injuries.  
 
“Sexual violence is a preventable crime, especially when we challenge harmful attitudes and misconceptions about placing the blame on victims instead of the offender’s actions,” said Esther Peralez-Dieckmann, Director of the Office of Women’s Policy.  “We encourage survivors to get the support and medical attention they need.”
 
The County is encouraging residents to help end sexual assault this month and every day by participating in Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) activities. Community members are invited to wear teal or a teal ribbon this month. Visit the County Office of Women’s Policy website owp.sccgov.org for related events.
 
Survivors of Sexual violence and advocates can call one of the 24-hour crisis lines below, or reach live help online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
 
YWCA Rape Crisis Center Hotline
408.287.3000
 
Community Solutions Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence Hotline
(South County)
1.877.END.SADV (1.877.363.7238)
 
National Sexual Assault Hotline
1.800.656.HOPE (4673)
 
National Sexual Assault Online Hotline
 
Men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in childhood, and their friends and loved ones, can contact RAINN’s 1in6 online hotline, which is reached through https://ohl.rainn.org/1in6/ for support, information, and resources.
 
Media Contact: Laurel Anderson/Marina Hinestrosa, County Office of Public Affairs, (408) 299-5119; Cynthia Hunter, SCC Office of Women’s Policy, (408) 299-5158.
Posted:  April 13, 2016