This crime happens every 98 seconds

This crime happens every 98 seconds

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). The campaign was created 17 years ago to raise awareness and educate on the prevention of sexual violence.

Not sure what’s classified as sexual violence?

Dr. Rian Rowles, a psychiatrist with Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill. says, “Sexual violence or assault occurs when someone is sexually touched without giving consent.”

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) lists sexual violence as: rape, incest, child sexual abuse, intimate partner violence, sexual exploitation, human trafficking, unwanted sexual contact, sexual harassment, exposure and voyeurism.

According to RAINN, every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. Every eight minutes, that victim is a child.

Do you know the warning signs of sexual assault?

Protect yourself and others by learning the signs or refreshing your knowledge with Dr. Rowles and Dr. Gabrielle Roberts, a psychologist with Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill.

Dr. Rowles says these are some of the warning signs of sexual assault for adults:

  • Depression or persistent sadness, lack of energy, a withdrawal from normal activities and changes in sleep or appetite
  • Low self-esteem or body shaming
  • Anxiety around certain people or about situations that wasn’t there before
  • Avoidance of certain places or situations
  • Self-harm and suicidal behaviors
  • Increased drug and/or alcohol use
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Spending less time with family or friends
  • Mentioning that their partner is pressuring them to make certain decisions, limit their contraceptive options or coerce them into sexual activity
  • Signs someone is controlling their modes of communication or ability to engage in activities
  • Black eyes, bruises or other signs of physical abuse

Dr. Roberts says these are some of the warning signs of sexual assault for children:

  • Advanced knowledge of or preoccupation with sexual topics
  • Sexual play with dolls/toys
  • Age-inappropriate sexual behavior, such as initiating sex acts with other children
  • Changes to mood or behavior, such as symptoms of depression or anxiety, misbehavior, suicidal behavior or self-injurious behavior
  • Changes to hygiene or grooming
  • Poor body image/low self-esteem
  • Difficulty with bedtime and/or nightmares
  • Fear of specific people or places
  • Regressive behaviors, such as bedwetting
  • Aversion to physical touch
  • Unexplained trauma to the genitals, bruises, pain or irritation/infections

Dr. Roberts also wants you to know that while warning signs are only listed for children and adults in this article, teens will also have signs for sexual assault. These signs are typically characteristics picked up from both categories.

“In most sexual assault cases, the victim usually knows the perpetrator,” says Dr. Rowles. “This can make it difficult for someone to speak out. Additionally, many of the warning signs for sexual assault aren’t always physical signs that are easy to see. By knowing some of these signs, you could help a survivor get the care and support they need.”

If you’re seeking support as a survivor, never hesitate to reach out for help. The National Sexual Assault Hotline is available at 800.656.4673. Advocate Christ also offers a range of services to help both survivors and their family and friends.

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About the Author

Jamie Bonnema
Jamie Bonnema

Jamie Bonnema, health enews contributor, is a specialist of public affairs and marketing at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. She earned her BA in communications from DePaul University in Chicago. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, going to concerts, and cheering on the Chicago Cubs.