April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

2023 Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) Article for Win Awenen Nisitotung

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month – Do your part! 

More than 1 in 2 (56.1%) American Indian/Alaskan Native women and more than 1 in 4 (27.5%) American Indian/Alaskan Native men have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime. Native Americans are twice as likely to experience rape or sexual assault compared to all races. Doing our part during Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) means educating ourselves about and learning how to stand up against sexual violence. Sexual Violence (SV) indicates physical sexual acts without consent or when the person cannot consent. 

SV refers to crimes like sexual assault, rape, and sexual abuse. SV often intersects with other crimes and forms of violence, such as domestic violence, missing and murdered Indigenous relatives (MMIR), child abuse, and elder abuse, to name a few. It does not discriminate – anyone of any race, age, gender, or orientation can experience or perpetrate sexual violence. 

Perpetrators of SV are usually someone the victim knows, such as a friend, intimate partner, or family member. Sexual Assault (SA) follows this same definition and is the physical act of SV. Acts of SA are criminal and may involve physical, emotional, or psychological force, coercion, intimidation, threats, ignoring the victim’s objections, or causing or taking advantage of the victim’s intoxication or incapacitation via drugs or alcohol, among other factors. 

Rape is a form of SA, but not all SA is rape. Rape is often used as a legal definition to indicate that the act included sexual penetration. Sexual Harassment (SH) occurs in the workplace or places of learning like schools and creates an environment that most people would find intimidating, hostile, or offensive. In general, SH violates civil laws, but in many cases is not criminal. SH describes behavior such as unwelcome sexual advances, sexual jokes, discussing sexual relations/stories/fantasies at inappropriate places, unwanted sexually explicit photos, emails, or text messages, exposing oneself, unwanted physical contact, and other conduct of a sexual nature. 

So, what can we do to prevent Sexual Violence? Encourage social norms that prevent violence, like learning to be an active bystander when witnessing abuse and promoting healthy masculinity in boys and men. Support survivors by listening to and believing them and avoiding engagement in victim blaming, both of which work against rape culture. Teach healthy skills and ideas to the next generation, like social-emotional learning, healthy sexuality, consent, safe dating and intimate relationship skills, and empowerment.

 These are just a few ways to stand up against SV for a better and safer future. There are many factors and intersections in understanding Sexual Violence, such as power and control, addiction, colonialism, racism, sexism, and more.

Continue educating yourself about SV and how to prevent it at www.niwrc.org, www.rainn.org, www.nsvrc.org, and cdc.gov. Also, watch the Advocacy Resource Center’s Facebook page during April for more information about different types of sexual violence, the effects of SA, safety and prevention, bystander intervention, and available services for survivors - www.facebook.com/saulttribeARC. 

It is essential to know that SV, SA, and SH are NEVER the survivor’s fault. Sexual assault is caused by perpetrators motivated by their desire to control, humiliate, and harm. If you have been impacted by any sexual violence, the Advocacy Resource Center can help. We have a variety of supportive services available to all. For more information, contact the Advocacy Resource Center at (906) 632-1808, toll-free at (877) 639-7820, or visit our website at www.arcsaulttribe.com. Remember – you are not alone, you are not to blame, and help is available.

April Recognizes National Crime Victims' Rights Week-April 23-29, 2023 National Crime Victims' Week (NCVRW) has been honored every April since 1981. President Ronald W. Reagan professed the first National Crime Victims' Rights Week and issued an Executive Order establishing the President's Task Force on Victims of Crime. The dedicated week of honor focuses on the achievements of those who have fought hard for the rights of victims of crimes, to honor those who have served victims of crime, and of course, to recognize and remember victims of crime. This year’s National Crime Victims' Rights Week's theme is —Survivor Voices: Elevate. Engage. Effect Change. This year's theme calls upon communities to amplify the voices of survivors and create environments where survivors have the confidence that they will be heard, believed, and supported. (Source: 2023 National Crime Victims' Rights Week Theme | OVC https://www.ovc.ojp.gov)  A victim is "a person who has suffered physical or emotional harm, property damage, or economic loss as a result of a crime." (Janaki, M., et al. "Status Of Victims In Cjs In India." Indian Social Science Journal, vol. 6, no. 2, Indian Social Science Journal, Oct. 2017, p. 37.) There are rights available to victims of crime as well as several programs available to help recover from the detriment of a crime. Victim advocates, counselors, lawyers, and assistance programs are available for victims across Michigan. Michigan's Crime Victims' Compensation Program (CVCP) is available to assist eligible crime victims and their immediate families with the financial costs of a crime. Basic eligibility requirements must be met to qualify for such compensation. Compensation may cover victimization-related medical, dental, optical, or counseling services. The CVCP may cover loss of earnings due to physical injuries preventing the victim from working and/or the loss of support to dependents of homicide victims. Victims who require eyeglasses, hearing aids, dentures, or prosthetic devices may have the cost of the items covered by the CVCP. Funeral expenses, crime scene clean-up, and/or grief counseling services may also be covered for victims or surviving family members of crime. Michigan's Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has a Crime Victim Compensation Reference Guide that helps determine the qualifications for receiving assistance. It is essential to clarify what is not covered by the CVCP. The loss of, or damage to, personal property or vehicle; pain and suffering or emotional distress; relocation costs, living expenses, or cost of participating in a Court trial are not covered by the CVCP. Expenses paid by public or private health insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, workers' compensation, automobile insurance or those of the like are additionally not covered by the CVCP. Michigan's DHHS website provides information for victims of crime at www.michigan.gov/crimevictims. A victims-only toll-free number is also available at (877) 251-7373. Victims of a crime have many rights and services available to help them. A list of direct services for crime victims can is available at https://ovc.ojp.gov/help-for-victims/toll-free-and-online-hotlines. The Sault Tribe Advocacy Resource Center has victim advocates available to assist and may be reached at (906) 632-1808 or toll-free at (877) 639-7820. Please visit the ARC website at www.arcsaulttribe.com for more information.

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