Modified: April 27, 2017 10:28am
From the Office of the Commissioner of Health, Dr. Gale R. Burstein
Date: April 27, 2017
CONTACT: Mary C. St. Mary/Mary.StMary@Erie.Gov
Phone: 716.858.4941/ Mobile: 716.253.3925
Sexual Assault Awareness & Prevention Month
Every Individual Should Be Free From Violence & Fear
ERIE COUNTY, NY— Sexual violence is a very serious public health problem that affects millions of women and men. In the United States, 1 in 5 women have experienced completed or attempted rape, and about 1 in 15 men have been sexual assault victims someone in their lifetime. Most victims first experienced sexual violence before age 25 years. Statistics underestimate the problem because many victims do not tell the police, family, or friends about the violence.
Sexual violence is any sexual activity where consent is not freely given. This includes completed or attempted sex acts that are against the victim's will or involve a victim who is unable to consent. Sexual violence also includes unwanted sexual contact, or non-contact, unwanted sexual experiences (such as verbal sexual harassment).
Sexual violence can be committed by anyone:
- A current or former intimate partner.
- A family member.
- A person in position of power or trust.
- A friend or acquaintance.
- A stranger or someone known only by sight.
“Sexual violence impacts health in many ways and can lead to long-term physical and mental health problems,” said Dr. Gale Burstein, Erie County Commissioner of Health. “For example, victims may experience chronic pain, headaches, and sexually transmitted diseases. They are often fearful or anxious and may have problems trusting others. Anger and stress can lead to eating disorders, depression, and even suicidal thoughts.”
People commit sexual violence for several reasons:
- To control another person
- To use another person for sex
- To hold power over another person
To prevent sexual violence we have to change the culture that allows varying forms of oppression (including racism, sexism, homophobia, and others) and inequality to thrive, and that makes violence seem normal or acceptable.
Sexual violence is also a social justice issue. All people have a basic right to be respected. People who commit violence take away that right of respect, impacting a person’s trust and feeling of safety.
Small changes can help change the culture, such as:
- Building healthy and supportive relationships
- Speaking up when you hear harmful comments
The more people become aware of just how prevalent this problem is in the United States, the more beneficial it will be for everyone. When survivors feel safe to share their story with others, it serves to help prevent future abuse from taking place and helps the healing begin. “We all need to help in the fight to prevent and end sexual assault. Our overriding obligation is to uphold the basic principle that every individual should be free from violence and fear. Each of us must play our role to help keep our communities safe from this crime and to stand with survivors and victims of sexual assault,” concluded Burstein.
If you are or someone you know is a victim of sexual violence:
- Contact your local emergency services at 9-1-1.
- Contact the Family Justice Center www.fjcsafe.org/ or 716-558-7233
- Contact the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE. Help is free, confidential, and available 24/7. Get information at RAINN.
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