April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. While domestic violence and sexual assault are not mutually exclusive issues, we know that sexual assault is often used by perpetrators as a tactic to gain and maintain power and control over their partner. Eight out of ten survivors of sexual violence report knowing their perpetrator -- and of these survivors, 33% report that their perpetrator was a significant other or an intimate partner. Survivors of domestic violence who also experienced sexual assault in their relationship are more likely to experience lethal violence at the hands of their partner, and are more likely to develop long-lasting physical and mental health conditions as a result of their experience.
In the wake of so many mainstream social movements and conversations about sexual assault and domestic violence, we are seeing more and more survivors feel empowered to share their stories and hold their perpetrators accountable in the public eye. However, this doesn’t mean that all survivors feel safe or ready to come forward about the abuse they’ve experienced, nor does it mean that every survivor even wants to do so. All of this, and anything else a survivor might be experiencing, is okay; supporting and holding space for survivors is what we do best.
“I Ask,” the theme for this year’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month, seeks to normalize everyday conversations about consent and boundary-setting -- conversations that are essential to creating a culture where sexual violence and abuse of power in every form is not tolerated. We do this in our everyday work at La Casa through educating clients and community about healthy relationships and acting as a strong voice for survivors across San Francisco. But to us, “I Ask” also has a second meaning. In their work, our advocates ask clients about their relationships, the resources they require, and what they need most to feel safe. As service providers, asking is the first step of many we take to empower our clients as they heal, no matter the kinds of violence they have experienced.
If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual violence from an intimate partner, know that you’re not alone. Call La Casa’s 24/7 hotline at 1-877-503-1850, or message our text line at 415-200-3575, for support. For resources for sexual assault broadly, including sexual assault that is not part of an intimate partner relationship, reach out to RAINN at 1-800-656-4673 or chat online at www.rainn.org.