April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month and provides an opportunity to highlight year-round efforts to aid those affected by sexual violence and work to prevent future sexual assaults. In President Obama’s 2010 Sexual Assault Awareness Month Proclamation, he states, “During National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we recommit ourselves not only to lifting the veil of secrecy and shame surrounding sexual violence, but also to raising awareness, expanding support for victims, and strengthening our response.” His statement clearly resonates with the mission of First Response Action.
According to researchers in this field, disastrous response (disbelief, failure of support, lack of protection for the victim, protection of the offender) is a factor that
correlates with primary severe trauma in victims (Hindman 1990 & 1999). As this research shows, the importance of first response cannot be underestimated. Members of the First Response Action Coalition are enthusiastic about the dialogue with Peace Corps staff. We recognize this dialogue as a first step to strengthening and improving critical support systems for Peace Corps Volunteers.
This work is incredibly vital. Of all human experiences of trauma, sexual trauma is second in severity only to those who have experienced active combat (Wilson, Smith & Johnson in Figley, 1985). According to a 2007 World Health Organization report, 64% of Americans believe that a woman’s appearance provokes rape. 60% believe that women who go out alone are putting themselves at greater risk of rape (Ward, 1995). Communities across the world are challenging thesedamaging rape myths by organizing “Take Back the Night” rallies, Denim Day protests, Vagina Monologues performances, and other consciousness raising activities. “Men Can Stop Rape” is organizing community speak-outs, trainings, discussions, and film screenings across the nation.
If you are currently a PCV, know that the anti-rape movement is an INTERNATIONAL movement. We would love to hear what you are doing to honor Sexual Assault Awareness Month during your Peace Corps service! If you are a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer or supporter, take the time to find out what your local rape crisis center or state coalition is organizing in your community.
Karen Moldovan, RPCV Tonga
Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault
For more information about Sexual Assault Awareness Month or to find events in your area, visit http://www.nsvrc.org/saam.