MCDOWELL COUNTY, W.Va. – Sexual Assault Awareness Month is an annual campaign to raise public awareness about sexual assault and educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence. It is observed each year in April.

S.A.F.E., Inc. extends an invitation to the public for a ceremony on the McDowell County Courthouse lawn on Thursday, April 22nd, 2021 at noon. The event will recognize both Sexual Assault Awareness Month and show support for survivors of sexual assault.

Sexual violence is generally defined by the CDC as a sexual act committed against someone without that person’s freely given consent. (Note that sexual violence involves victims who do not consent or who are unable to consent to the involved sex act(s).)

Sexual violence can happen to anyone – regardless of gender, race, age, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, or religion. Victims of sexual assault include infants, adults in later life, people of color, LGBT individuals, individuals with disabilities, women and men. In West Virginia, it is estimated that 1 in 6 adult women and 1 in 21 adult men will be a victim of an attempted or completed sexual assault in her/his lifetime (WV Health Statistics Center, BRFSS, 2008). Teens 16 to 19 are 4 times more likely to be victims of rape than the general population (National Crime Victimization Survey, 2000). Ages 12-24 are the highest risk years. 15% of victims are under the age of 12 (RAINN).

It is a common misconception that most sexual assaults are committed by strangers. You are more likely to be sexually assaulted by someone you know – a friend, date, classmate, neighbor, or relative – than by a stranger. Familiar people and places are often more dangerous.

More than 50% of all rape/sexual assault incidents were reported by victims to have occurred within 1 mile of their home or at their home (RAINN).

• 4 in 10 take place at the victim’s home.
• 2 in 10 take place at the home of a friend, neighbor, or relative.
• 1 in 12 take place in a parking garage.
In West Virginia (WV-IBRS, 2009):
• 70% of reported sex offenses occurred at a residence or in a home.
• Nearly 82% of all sexual assaults were committed by someone known to the victim. 46.6% of assaults were committed by an acquaintance, 7.4% by an intimate partner, and 27.6% by ‘other’ family (e.g., in-law, sibling).

According to studies, false accusations of rape only account for 2%-8% of all reported sexual assaults – no higher than false reports for any other crimes.
Sexual violence is never the victim’s fault; however, taking these precautions could potentially reduce your risk of being assaulted. Trust your instinct. If you don’t feel comfortable in a situation, leave.

Stay in charge of your own life. If possible, don’t put yourself in situations where you have to rely on others financially or for housing or are made to feel you “owe” someone.

• Be cautious inviting someone into your home or going to someone else’s home.
• Do not mix sexual decisions with drugs and alcohol.
• When going out with someone new, go out with a group or meet in a public place.
• Be aware of drugs used to facilitate rape. Don’t accept beverages from open containers and don’t leave your drink unattended.
• Do not be pressured by lines such as, “If you loved me.” If your partner loved you, he/she would respect your feelings.
• Communicate. Think about what you really want before you get into a sexual situation. Clearly and assertively communicate your feelings to your partner or date.

Sexual violence is NEVER the victim’s fault. It doesn’t matter if someone was dressed seductively, drinking or using drugs, out at night alone, on a date with the perpetrator, etc. – no one asks to be raped. The responsibility and blame is within the perpetrator, never with the victim. The absence of injuries often suggests to others that the victim failed to resist and, therefore, must have consented. Often, rapists only need the threat of violence to control their victims. They also sometimes use drugs to incapacitate their victims. Some victims submit to the assault for fear of greater harm. Submitting does not mean the victim gave consent. Each rape victim does whatever she/he needs to do at the time in order to survive.

If you have been sexually assaulted, a SAFE advocate can help you understand traumatic reactions caused by sexual violence. Be kind to yourself and take care of you. Eat healthy, exercise to help relieve stress, get adequate sleep, listen to your body, if something doesn’t feel right contact a doctor, get counseling for emotional trauma, most important be patient, healing from trauma takes time.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, we are here to LISTEN, BELIEVE, and SUPPORT.

Contact Ashley Hale, Sexual Assault Advocate, SAFE Inc. at 1-800-688-6157, 304-436-8117 or 304-732-8176.

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