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House Approves Resolution Supporting Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month

On April 30, the House approved, by voice vote, a resolution (H. Con. Res. 330) supporting “National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.” Sponsored by Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), the measure recognizes that “’National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month’ provides a special opportunity to educate the people of the United States about sexual violence and to encourage the prevention of sexual assault, the improved treatment of its survivors, and the prosecution of its perpetrators.” The Senate approved its version of the bill (S. Con. Res. 77) on April 23 (see The Source, 4/25/08).

Speaking in support of her resolution, Rep. Baldwin said, “Although most victims are younger women, the effects of sexual assault cross all racial, social, religious, ethnic, and economic boundaries. Whether the crime is rape, incest, child sexual abuse, stalking, or sexual harassment, sexual assault impacts our schools, our workplaces, our streets, and our homes. Survivors are our sons, our daughters, our brothers, our sisters, our friends, our grandparents. In addition to the physical effects of victimization, the emotional scars felt by sexual assault survivors may persist long after the physical scars have healed. Sexual violence costs an estimated $127 billion per year in medical expenses, lost productivity, treatment of psychological trauma, and pain and suffering. Yet we know that only 41 percent of sexual assault survivors pursue prosecution by reporting their attack to law enforcement officials, and despite the support services offered by the National Sexual Assault Hotline and more than 1,000 crisis centers across the nation, fewer than 50 percent of survivors ever tell anyone about their experience. These statistics are staggering and unconscionable. Despite the alarming prevalence of sexual assault, there is a clear and significant need for more public education and awareness…By supporting this resolution, we highlight the efforts of individuals, and agencies that provide rape crisis intervention and prevention services. We also call attention to sexual violence as a major public health issue and raise awareness of the need for increased resources for preventing sexual violence.”

Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) said, “When I was an assistant district attorney back in Texas, I prosecuted rapists for eight years, and then I sat on the bench as a judge in Houston for 22 years, hearing felony criminal cases. During those 30 years, I learned a lot about sexual assault and the devastation it has on victims. Probably one of the best statements ever made about a sexual assault and how it affects the victim was a sexual assault victim who was 90 years old and had been raped. She testified on the witness stand that what happened to her ‘was a fate worse than death.’ And, yes, many times it is a fate worse than murder itself, the crime that occurs against these individuals throughout our country. It devastates the victim, and after the crime occurs, the victim faces a lifetime…battle to recover. In many cases, sexual assault or rape is an attempt on the part of the offender to destroy the inner soul and being of the victim, and sometimes that actually occurs…With this resolution, I hope we can educate the public about this horrendous crime…By drawing attention to sexual violence and speaking about it on the national level here in our Congress, we can encourage victims to report these crimes and get the help they need…[I]t is important that we designate April as National Sexual Assault and Awareness Month so we can educate our fellow citizens on [sexual assault] statistics and encourage rape and sexual assault victims to no longer be afraid.”

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