April marks Sexual Assault Awareness Month. For over fifteen years, gender based violence organizations, survivors of sexual assault and allies in the fight to end violence have used this month to talk about the prevention of all forms of sexual violence. YWCA is one of the largest networks of sexual and domestic violence services in the country, serving fifty thousand sexual assault survivors and their families every year. We remain committed to ending sexual assault, and we stand with survivors as they heal and thrive.
We know the numbers are staggering. Every two minutes someone is sexually assaulted. One in four girls, and one in six boys will be sexually assaulted before they turn 18, and more than half of all rapes go unreported. Moreover, women of color, immigrant women, transgender women, women with disabilities, and other people with multiple marginalized identities are at even greater risk for gender-based violence and face increased barriers to safety, reporting and justice. At YWCA, we know that not all violence is acknowledged or responded to equally and that some victims go unrecognized altogether.
That is why we join advocates and communities across the country in taking action to prevent sexual violence and provide safety and compassion for those who have already survived. April is a time to lift our voices together to tell survivors “You are not alone,” “we believe you” and “we stand with you.” It is also a time to take collective action to shift cultural norms that enable sexual violence to happen. YWCA’s mission is to eliminate racism, empower women, and promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. We know that in order for this mission to be realized, we must fight for a world free from sexual violence and the threat of violence.
We do this through our direct crisis and support services to survivors, our community education campaigns like “Week Without Violence” and through urging our legislators to support the SAFE Act, which allows survivors to take job protected safe leave to receive medical attention, seek legal assistance, attend court proceedings, and get help with safety planning without fear of firing. Furthermore, YWCA supports the continuance and full funding for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA). VAWA has historically received bipartisan support since 1994 and the YWCA strongly supports the continuance of this funding stream as a critical component in working with communities across the nation to address gender based violence.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but every day is the right day to create change for the future. Together, we can end gender-based violence.