Tuesday, April 2, 2013

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

This year's Sexual Assault Awareness Month focuses on healthy sexuality and its connection to sexual violence prevention. Adults are encouraged to start talking about healthy childhood development, including healthy sexuality, with the young people in their lives. 

Recent news coverage of two high profile cases involving rape presents an opportunity to understand what can be done to prevent rape and all other types of sexual violence from ever happening. The first case involved a review of the military’s handling of sexual assault cases. Of the nearly 2,500 sexual violence cases in the military services that were reported in 2011, only 240 made it to trial. The second high profile news story involved the conviction of two teenage boys of sexual assault and a critique from both sides of how the media addressed the story. Both cases highlight the need for more education for young people and adults in preventing and talking about the impact of sexual violence.

How common is sexual violence?

Sexual violence affects people of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds. One in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 
So what can I do?
By learning about the characteristics of healthy sexuality, adults can better identify risks, support healthy boundaries and challenge negative messages. These tools support parents, community members and organizations as they work to prevent sexual violence. For more information about tools and information on healthy childhood sexual development, please visit Colorado Youth Matter's website. In addition, the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CCASA) is hosting a number of events to recognize this work. Please visit their website for more information.
What are we doing as a state to prevent sexual violence?
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's Sexual Violence Prevention (SVP) Program exists to prevent sexual violence in Colorado. The program currently funds nine community-based organizations throughout the state to implement and evaluate effective programs to prevent sexual violence from ever happening.
Since the SVP Program focuses on preventing first time experiences of sexual violence, funded organizations focus on engaging youth and young adults between the ages of 12-25 by addressing the complexity of the dynamics of sexual violence individually, in relationships and as a result of policies, practices and social norms, and by talking about healthy sexuality.
Prevention strategies seek to reduce the factors that put young people at risk for experiencing violence while increasing the protective factors that provide a buffer against violence. Risk factors for sexual violence include:
·         lack of emotion regulation and healthy conflict resolution skills; 
·         antisocial or delinquent behavior; 
·         rigid beliefs about gender roles; and
·         lack of support for healthy sexuality.

Examples of protective factors include:
·         healthy interpersonal skills;
·         a sense of belonging;
·         bonding with caring adults; and
·         healthy relationship norms. 

How can my organization get involved in preventing sexual violence?
Opportunities to apply for SVP Program funds will become available in late Spring 2013. For more information about the prevention of sexual violence, please contact Tomei Kuehl at 303-692-2049 or tomei.kuehl *at* state.co.us.