Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

It is more prevalent than many people think.

Most people know at least one person who has experienced or will experience sexual assault or rape, said Cheryl O’Neil, executive director of Caring House.

Did you know one in five female students reported being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner?

Teens 16 to 19 were 3.5 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.

In three out of four incidents of sexual assault, the offender was not a stranger.

One in five girls and one in 10 to 20 boys will be sexually abused at some point in their childhood.

Everyone has a role in preventing sexual assault, O’Neil says. To show your support for victims and to take a stand against violence, Caring House is asking everyone to participate in Denim Day on Wednesday, April 24.

Why denim? In 1997, in Italy, a 17-year-old girl picked up her 56-year-old driving instructor for a lesson.

One hour later she is raped by him and abandoned in an alley. She reported the incident and he was convicted.

Months later the perpetrator appealed the sentence.

The case was taken all the way to the Italian Supreme Court where the case against the perpetrator was overturned and he was released.

In a statement released by the head judge, who argued, “because the victim wore very tight jeans, she had to help him remove them and by removing the jeans, it was no longer rape but consensual sex.”

Enraged by the verdict, the women in the Italian Parliament launched into immediate action and protested by wearing jeans on the steps of the Italian Parliament building.

This call to action motivated the California Senate and Assembly to do the same and a movement was born.

Caring House is encouraging community members, elected officials, businesses and students to make a social statement with their fashion statement and wear jeans as a visible means of protest against the myths that surround sexual assault.

For information on how you can help, contact Caring House at 774-1112 or 1-800-392-7839.

The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network of Washington, DC, offers the following safety tips:

How to get away if there is an emergency:

– Be conscious of exits or other escape routes.

– Think about options for transportation (car, bus, train, etc.)

Who can help:

– Friends, family.

– Support centers, if there are any in your area.

– National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673), the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or, if you are in a dating or domestic violence situation, the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

Where to go:

– Friend’s house.

– Relative’s house.

– A domestic violence or homeless shelter.

– The police (even if the police know both you and the perpetrator-they are still responsible for doing their job).

– Important: If the dangerous situation involves a partner, go to the police or a shelter first.

What to bring:

– Important papers and documents: birth certificate, Social Security card, license, passport, medical records, lease, bills, etc.

– House keys, car keys, cash, credit cards, medicine, important numbers, cell phone.

– If you are bringing children with you, remember to bring their important papers and legal documents.

– Keep all of these things in an emergency bag.

– Hide the bag, best if not in house or car.

– If the bag is discovered, can call it a “tornado” or “fire” bag.

How to anticipate and respond to a perpetrator’s actions:

– Be conscious of places the perpetrator frequents (work schedule, favorite places to go, etc.).

– Plan what you would say and do if you came into contact with him or her.

Traveling safety:

If you need to get away and there is no public transportation in your area, try to find someone who will allow you to use his or her car if you do not have one at your disposal.


– Keep your doors locked.

– Have extra car necessities (oil, jumper cables, etc.).

– Try not to wait until the last minute to fill your gas tank; always keep it half-way full if you can.

– Have your keys ready when you go to unlock your car.

– Plan your route and know what “safe” places are on it (police stations, hospitals, etc.).

Home Safety:

– Change the locks on doors and windows.

– Keep your doors locked, even when you are at home.

– Install a security system.

– Install outside lighting system (with motion detectors).

– Close blinds/curtains at night.

– Keep car doors locked, even in your own driveway.

Tips to remember:

– Keep cash with you at all times.

– Memorize all important numbers/have important numbers easily accessible on your cell phone (if you have one).

– Establish a code word so that family, friends, etc. know when to call for help.

– Have a backup plan in case the first fails.

– Carry a small noisemaker (like a whistle) and/or flashlight on your keychain.

– Be aware of your routine and try to alter it sometimes, if possible.

– Have an extra copy of keys.

– Try to keep in contact with people/organizations who are helping you.