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April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, during which time we recommit ourselves to standing against crimes of sexual violence by supporting survivors, holding offenders accountable, and working toward prevention of sexual assault in our communities.
Rape and sexual assault can devastate survivors, often leaving them to cope with feelings of depression and fear, suicidal feelings and long-lasting health problems. Unfortunately, too many victims will struggle to cope with these challenges as crimes of sexual violence and abuse affect thousands of men, women and children in our state each year. On a national level, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly one in five women and one in 71 men in the United States have been raped at some time in their lives. Sadly, these crimes also affect great numbers of young people, with women between the ages of 16 and 24 at the greatest risk of experiencing rape and sexual assault, and many victims, both male and female, first experiencing abuse during childhood.
These numbers are underestimates because unfortunately many victims of sexual violence do not report the crime out of fear, concerns about not being believed, or worries about how difficult or overwhelming it can be to journey through the criminal justice system. It is therefore up to all of us to ensure victims of sexual violence receive the support they need.
The national theme for this month, “It's Time to Talk About It,” reflects the importance of letting victims know that they are not alone on their journey toward healing, and the importance of talking about the issue in our communities so that, through awareness, we can strive to achieve prevention.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) will work to raise awareness this month by participating in Denim Day on April 25th, when DOJ employees will join people all over the world in wearing denim to show solidarity with victims of sexual assault. The Denim Day tradition began in response to an Italian court ruling overturning a rape conviction because the judge believed that the victim's jeans were so tight that the perpetrator could not have removed them without her assistance.
On that same day, our Office of Crime Victim Services will join the Wisconsin Crime Victims Council and the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault to honor the courage of crime victims in observance of National Crime Victims' Rights Week. And, to continue to enhance training and education in the criminal justice system, our Violence Against Women Resource Prosecutor will provide special lunch-time training for prosecutors highlighting recent developments in sexual assault prosecution.
Join us in taking the “time to talk about it” this month as we rededicate ourselves to ending crimes of sexual violence by working to support victims, hold offenders accountable and prevent future acts of violence.