#WorkAgainstViolence: Sexual Assault

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#WorkAgainstViolence: Sexual Assault

By Qudsia Raja
Advocacy & Policy Manager of Health and Safety, YWCA USA

Violence against women impacts the lives of countless women and their families across the United States. Women and girls of all ages, income levels, racial and ethnic communities, sexual orientations and religious affiliations experience violence in the form of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, trafficking and stalking.

500 women on average are sexually assaulted every day. Women ages 20-24 are at the highest risk for experiencing rape and sexual assault, followed by young women between the ages of 16-19. Young women on college campuses are particularly vulnerable: one in five experience some form of sexual assault at some point of their college career. Of these, 40% of survivors have reported fear of reprisal by their attackers. And, while 8 in 10 know their attacker, only 13% actually report their assault .

These are not numbers to be taken lightly.

The reasons for the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses are many: policies to address sexual assault vary from campus to campus, perpetrators are often not held accountable, and victims do not have adequate counseling and emergency services resources available to them.

In response to the overwhelming need for an overhaul of the policies that address campus sexual assault, the White House has launched a series of campaigns this year in hopes of decreasing incident rates and creating safe spaces for students. NotAlone.gov compiles local resources and data for survivors, as well as tools to help victims of sexual assault file complaints. Moving a step further, It’s On Us was most recently launched as a way to engage men as active bystanders.

As one of the leading providers of programs serving victims of violence, the YWCA supports public policies that protect victims, hold perpetrators accountable, and work to eradicate violence against women in every form. YWCAs across the country #workagainstviolence every day through critical intervention and prevention programming in local communities, ranging from community education, empowerment programs for women and girls, and programs aimed at engaging men and boys in the conversation around preventing and ending violence against women and girls. In fact, nine local YWCAs were featured in a White House report, 1 is 2 Many, that highlights best-practice programs created as a result of VAWA funded grants.  While the implementation of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) nearly 20 years ago has helped streamline the criminal justice response to crimes like sexual assault, lasting and permanent change cannot happen until we are able to dismantle rape culture and change attitudes around the prevalence of violence targeting women and girls.

How will you #WorkAgainstViolence and take a stand against sexual assault? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

To find a YWCA program in your local community, click here.

For resources on violence against women, click here.

YWCA Week Without ViolenceThis post is part of the YWCA Week Without Violence™ 2014 Blog Carnival. We invite you to join the dialogue! Post your comment below, share your story and follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #workagainstviolence.

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