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Sexual Assault Prevention Demands Equity

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

This year, we are called upon to focus on building racial equity as an important component of sexual assault prevention. We can all take steps toward healthier and safer communities through education about sexual assault, harassment, and violence and considering how to improve school safety through sexual violence prevention policies added to school safety plans.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center brings the issues of sexual violence prevention into sharp focus. We cannot separate sexual violence from its root causes:

Systems of oppression, such as racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, ageism, ableism, and others contribute to higher rates of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse. So often, we are unaware of how historical conditions have shaped our lives and how we move throughout the world, specifically, forms of privilege with the many identities we each hold. As such, we recognize that it will take ending all forms of oppression to end sexual violence worldwide.

Highlighting one of the pressing issues we see impacting not only equity within our movement to end violence, but negatively affecting the life, freedom, and dignity of people across the world is anti-Blackness. In addressing prevention, we must take steps to undo the systemic ways anti-Black racism shows up in our communities.

Discussions about racial issues, racism, equity, and inclusion are often avoided due to feeling uncomfortable and risks. Being uncomfortable is OK – but to address the social exclusion, unequal access to resources, disproportionate exposure to harm, and unjust prejudice that people of color face, we must show up with courage and humility. We can help create change if we take the time to hear, understand, and recognize one another. 

Drawing connections between ourselves, history, and the world around us is necessary for changing the future. Sexual violence is an umbrella term that includes any type of unwanted sexual contact — including sexual assault, harassment, and abuse. 

Forms of sexual violence include:

  • Rape or sexual assault
  • Sexual harassment
  • Sexual abuse
  • Unwanted sexual contact/touching
  • Sexual exploitation and trafficking
  • Exposing one’s genitals or naked body to others without consent
  • Nonconsensual image sharing
  • Words and actions of a sexual nature against a person’s will and without their consent

Sexual violence represents a range of behavior. Statistics show:

  • More than 1 and 4 non-Hispanic Black women (29%) in the United States were raped in their lifetime (Basile et al., 2022).
  • More than 4 in 5 American Indian and Alaska Native women (84.3%) have experienced violence in their lifetime (Rosay, 2016).
  • 1 in 3 Hispanic women (34.8%) reported unwanted sexual contact in their lifetime (Basile et al., 2022).
  • 32.9% of adults with intellectual disabilities have experienced sexual violence (Tomsa et al., 2021).
  • 47% of all transgender people have been sexually assaulted at some point in their lives (James et al., 2016).

For more information and resources related to this year’s awareness campaign from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, visit the organization's website. Visit the Wisconsin DPI's website for additional resources related to sexual violence reduction and response. For more information about training for school leaders to improve prevention polices in school settings contact Awareness to Action (A2A) visit the Awareness to Action website.

This item was submitted by Julie Incitti, School Social Work Consultant, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.