Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) is celebrated its 20 years of awareness building this April 2021. The purpose of SAAM is to build awareness, as well as focus on prevention efforts to end sexual harassment, sexual abuse, sexual assault, and all forms of sexual violence. Many efforts rooted in the 1940s-1960s was centered in Black Women’s efforts to bring focus to obtaining equal rights for racial justice and gender-based violence. Rosa Parks is known for her preliminary efforts in beginning the conversation around racial equality justice and gender-based violence as a coinciding issue. As women’s issues and gender-based violence conversations continued to emerge, the first Rape Crisis Center was developed in San Francisco in 1971. The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) states that they have a network of over 1,000 sexual violence victim service providers in their current network, which is a nationwide resource network across the United States.
Through the development of prevention and awareness building a movement, some of the most notable and nationwide participated campaigns are Take Back the Night, Vagina Monologues, and Denim Day. These events are intended to activate the community, give survivor voices a platform to be heard, and empower education, prevention, and the vital need for intervention support for survivors and the community. Although SAAM has gained substantial momentum over the past several decades, sexual harassment and violence continue to plague our communities, and affect survivors of different genders, races, and identities. The continuous cultivation of sexual violence prevention is rooted in intersectional approaches and identifying areas in which sexual violence is prevalent but may not be well known in the community. The movement to build awareness has provided insight to the prevalence of sexual violence in various settings, some examples are the following: entertainment industry, college campuses, and this year's SAAM focus is on internet and online sexual violence.
A significant intersection to address is sexual violence and homelessness. Statistics show that 61% of homeless girls and 19% of homeless boys report sexual abuse as the reason for fleeing their home (Estes & Weiner, 2001).1 Additionally, 1 in 3 youth who are living on the street are likely to be lured into sexual exploitation. 2 Sexual exploitation and the perception of ‘prostitution’ can also be rooted in survival sex which is the exchange of sex for protection, or items that could help the person survive while on the streets. Many adults facing homelessness began the struggle of homelessness as youth fleeing violence, lack of acceptance for gender identity, or sexual orientation, and are now adults still navigating the hardships they face every day on the streets. Additionally, women who are homeless are at higher rates of experiencing sexual violence. According to a study of homeless and marginally housed people, 32% of women, 27% of men, and 38% of transgendered persons reported either physical or sexual victimization in the previous year (Kushel et al., 2003). An important reminder- when providing support to a survivor of interpersonal violence, the assessment of housing safety and stability is vital to ensure a holistic approach to the person’s security and well-being.
LAHSA encourages the collaboration of victim service providers and homeless service providers. The goal is to link homeless service providers with agencies tailoring their resources to the needs of survivors, while dually accessing housing resources for a co-case management approach. Along with these efforts, the Domestic Violence Regional Coordinators (DVRCs) are designated to the various service planning areas of LA County and provide support to survivors of domestic/intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and/or human trafficking. The DVRCs serve as a vital resource to survivors and the Coordinated Entry System (CES), as they continue their efforts in the development of survivor systems alignment. Via this link, you can view the updated DVRC contact list for assistance or possible collaboration within your designated SPA.
If you are interested in participating in regional or national events for SAAM, you can find events via the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) website.
Below are resources and guidance for provider to support homeless youth and adults facing sexual violence:
If you, or someone you know has experienced any form of sexual violence, please feel free to reach out to the following local and national resources:
Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network: 800-656-4673
Los Angeles Rape and Battering Hotline: 213-626-3393
Department of Defense Safe Helpline for Sexual Assault: 877-995-5247
Sexual Assault Response Teams; LA County SART Resources below
San Gabriel Valley Medical Center SART Program: 877-209-3049
The Providence Little Company of Mary SART Program: 310-241-4353
UCLA Rape Treatment Center: 424-259-7208