April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month
Last year, the UN released a policy brief highlighting that on a global scale, 243 million women and girls had experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in the 12 months prior to April 2020.1 These numbers do not include the instances of physical and sexual violence that go unreported, nor does it include the instances of violence that is perpetrated by non-intimate partners. This is a pervasive issue that has become even more complicated in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In fact, in February, the UN released a new brief stating that emerging data and reports from those on the front lines during the pandemic have shown that violence against women and girls all over the world has intensified, estimating an additional 15 million cases of gender-based violence for every three months of lockdown.2 We have seen how COVID has exacerbated circumstances for victims and exposed more women and girls to violence than ever before. Seeking services for the assault or abuse has been made difficult as victims may be trapped at home with their abusive partners, they may be afraid to seek medical care for fear of exposure to COVID-19, they may be impacted by unemployment or homelessness due to the pandemic’s strain on finances, or perhaps there is confusion about whether or not services are even available at this time.
Sexual Assault Awareness Month is a perfect time to get involved and learn what you can do to prevent this issue. A great first step is to connect with statewide and local experts to see what resources are available. Some great agencies in Maryland include the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MCASA), who can provide education on sexual assault prevention and intervention, as well as provide information for the rape crisis center closest to you. The Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence can inform you on the scope of domestic violence in Maryland and provide a list of domestic violence service programs in your area. The Maryland Health Care Coalition Against Domestic Violence can provide education on the intersections of health and domestic violence, offering resources on hospital-based domestic violence programs around the state.
Reach out today to learn how you can be part of the solution. And to those who have experienced the violence first-hand, please know that help is still available at this time and that healing is possible. You are not alone.
1 COVID-19 AND VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS: ADDRESSING THE SHADOW PANDEMIC
2 Report on the UN Women Global Response to COVID-19