Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

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DV and Sexual Assault

Did you know that sexual assault and domestic violence often go hand in hand? When we hear the term sexual assault, we often think of attacks by strangers. This isn’t always the case. In fact, around 33% of sexual assaults are committed by a current or former spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend. And nearly one in 10 women has been raped by an intimate partner in her lifetime.

Intimate partner violence also tends to start young, during the “tween” or teenage years. The CDC reports that among survivors of sexual assault, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, more than 22% of female survivors and 15% of male survivors experienced intimate partner violence for the first time between the ages of 11 and 17. Between the ages of 18 and 24, those figures jump to nearly half of female survivors and one-third of male survivors.

So we know that intimate partners commit sexual assault, and we know these issues affect adolescents as young as 11 years of age. The big question is, what can we do to change this?

Learn the warning signs.

If you can recognize the red flags for abuse in relationships, you can protect yourself and others from harm. The Power and Control Wheel can be a helpful resource that shows the types of behaviors to watch out for. It’s also a good idea to know what rights you have in your relationships. We put together a quick exercise to make it easy to do on your own or even with friends.

Educate others, and start young.

Once you know all about the warning signs of abuse and the qualities of healthy relationships, share your knowledge. One of the most important things we can do is educate young people about healthy relationships and consent. Teens need to know before they start dating how they should be treated, and just as importantly, how to treat their partners. Having these conversations early will equip them with the tools to choose respectful partners and say no to questionable ones.

Take action.

Last but not least, you can take action! Consider volunteering with organizations like LifeWire, donate if you can, vote for legislation supporting survivors and their families. On a more personal level, never underestimate the positive impact you can have on a person by listening. If a friend reaches out to you about abuse, listen to them, and believe them. That kind of support may not be available to them at home, and your support can make a world of difference.