April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month!

Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April kicks off the Cleveland County Abuse Prevention Council’s awareness campaign (with the addition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October). This year, APC’s campaign is NO MORE! APC wants to help Cleveland County say NO MORE to sexual assault in four main ways:

Know More

The more we know about something the harder it is for us to ignore it. The first thing APC wants to do in our community is to raise awareness and understanding about the dynamics and effects of sexual assault. Let me give you a crash course on sexual assault.

  • Sexual assault is an epidemic in our country: 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men will be raped in their lifetime.1 This means in Cleveland County’s population of 97,474 approximately 19,200 citizens have been raped. Known Perpetrator rape (the victim has some form of relationship with the rapist, ie. friend, family member, neighbor, caretaker, etc.) is more common than left-handedness, heart attacks, or alcoholism.2 Victims of sexual assault can be women, children, and men from any race, religion, socioeconomic, sexual orientation, and education backgrounds.3 It can happen to anyone.
  • The danger is not from a stranger: Six out of ten sexual assaults are committed in a place familiar to the victim (like their room, house, place of work, school, etc.).1 Approximately 70% of adult victims and 90% of college victims know their perpetrator.4
  • Most sexual assaults go unreported and those that are reported usually don’t make it to court: In 2005 only 38.3% of total rapes were report to police.5 Approximately only 20% of the charges brought against defendants in NC courts in 2008 dealing with sexual assaults actually led to a conviction.6 If we apply these statistics to Cleveland County’s 2011 rape reports we see some shocking numbers. There were 23 reported rapes in Cleveland County7 (this number does not include sexual assaults and attempted rapes). We can infer, using the 38.3% statistic that there were actually closer to about 60 rapes total. Of those 23 reported rapes, approximately only 5 went to trial and ended in a conviction.
  • Sexual assault is a serious crime and can have very serious effects on a victim: Every victim will experience and process their trauma in a different way. Not every victim will have the same reactions and behaviors after a sexual assault but some common effects are:3
    • Shock
    • Anxiety
    • Emotional numbness
    • Self-blame and/or shame
    • Withdrawal/lack of interest in social situations
    • Feelings of being dirty, contaminated, and/or impure
    • Lack of self-worth
    • Eating disorders
    • Self harming behaviors
    • Increased sexualized behaviors
    • Night-terrors
    • Flashbacks
    • Suspicion/distrust of others
    • Drug and alcohol abuse
    • Increased fear of personal safety
    • Fear of being touched
    • Suicide
    • Depression
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Questioning of spiritual beliefs
    • Avoidance of dating and intimacy
    • Feelings of betrayal
    • Denial, anger, and/or grief
    • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder


Now that you know more about Sexual Assault, it’s time to start talking about it with others. The more people who know about sexual assault and its effects on our community, the more we can change to make our community a safer place. So how do we talk about sexual assault? It’s not a very comfortable topic and doesn’t really make for great dinner conversation. So what do we do?

First thing first, parents can talk to their children about healthy sexuality, healthy dating relationships, and about respecting their partners. This conversation can be tailored by the family’s individual beliefs about sexuality and relationships, but all children need to understand that we respect each other in relationships. Young men and women need to understand that consent is not the absence of a “no” but the presence of a strong “yes.” We need to teach our young people that is it not right (and in fact illegal) to coerce a person into sexual activity.

Our community needs to continue to foster an environment of consent. Secondly, schools and higher education institutions in our community can help lower sexual assaults in our county by participating is aggressive prevention activities like: round table discussions, Safe Dates classes, thorough sexual assault education in the sex education curriculum, prevention and education fairs, etc. Pastors can also have a large impact when they talk about sexual assault prevention from the pulpit.

Endure NO MORE:

Victims in Cleveland County need to know that they don’t have to live as a victim for the rest of their lives. There is great hope for a person who has experienced sexual assault to take control over their lives, get the help they need, and thrive! The Cleveland County Abuse Prevention Council has many services for female and male victims of rape, sex trafficking, and sexual assault over the age of 13 (the Children’s Advocacy Center of Cleveland County handles all child sexual assaults for Cleveland county by referrals from DSS and Law Enforcement).

APC has an emergency response advocate called a Crisis Companion, who will meet a victim at the Hospital, doctor’s office, and/or law enforcement to be a moral support for the victim as they move through the medical and/or reporting process. APC’s court advocate can assist victims with filling stalking restraining orders and can be a moral support in the courtroom if their case goes to trial. APC also has individual counseling for sexual assault victims as well as support groups for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse.  Victims of sexual assault are always welcome to stay in our 24 hour shelter and to call our 24 hour crisis hotline if they are ever in need of assistance, support, and/or resources.

Share NO MORE:

The easiest way for awareness to be raised in this day and age is through social media websites. Share NO MORE with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, My Space, on your blog, etc. Make a movie about sexual assault and post it to YouTube. There are endless ways in which people can learn about the truths of sexual assault and you can be the catalyst for that change! The first step in creating a safer community is through education and prevention.

“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”― William Wilberforce

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, please feel free to call Cleveland County Abuse Prevention Council’s crisis hotline at 704-481-0043. There is hope! We can help!


  1. Rain.org 2012 statistic
  2. Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape
  3. North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault
  4. U.S. department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics August 2000
  5.  2005 National Crime Victimization Survey
  6. North Carolina Administrative Office for the Courts
  7. NC Bureau of Investigation

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