Local Commentary

Jim Moran

April is recognized as National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. The purpose of the special designation is to increase the public’s understanding of sexual violence in our society with the hope that a month of intensified awareness efforts combined with sexual violence prevention work throughout the year will bring us closer to ending these cruel, violent and demeaning assaults.

No segment of our society is free from sexual assault. Regardless of age, gender, ethnic, economic, social and religious group, sexual assaults can and do occur. In the U.S., someone is sexually assaulted every two and a half minutes. One in six women and one in 33 men have been victims of rape or attempted rape. In 2005, 191,670 people in the United States were sexually assaulted.

An alarming fact that shocks many who are not aware of how prevalent sexual assault is in our society is that roughly two-thirds of sexual assaults are committed by persons the victim already knows.

The most at-risk for sexual assault are children and young adults. 44 percent of victims are under the age of 18 and 80 percent are under the age of 30.

Fortunately, efforts to increase rape awareness, provide support to rape victims and prosecute the perpetrators work. In the last decade, sexual assaults have been cut in half. Thanks in part to the over 1,000 rape crisis centers and assault prevention organizations currently operating in the U.S., I’m happy to report that sexual assault is on the decline.

But despite these significant strides, current statistics show that still only 41 percent of sexual assault victims report their abuse. Clearly, much work is left to be done in order to make victims feel safe and more comfortable coming forward to help law enforcement put these violent offenders where they belong — in prison.

Last week, I introduced a resolution (H.Res.289) supporting National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. The bill states that it is the sense of the House of Representatives that distinguishing April as National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month will help educate the public about sexual violence, acknowledge the survivors, and recognize the efforts of those who working tirelessly to combat these horrible crimes.

I am optimistic the resolution will be considered. Putting Congress on record in support of the ideals espoused by National Sexual Awareness and Prevention Month is helpful in bringing greater attention to the issue.

So this April, let’s remember the survivors of sexual assault, recognize those assisting the victims, and recommit ourselves as a nation to aggressively preventing and prosecuting these horrible crimes.