May 06, 2020

Senators Introduce Resolution for Sexual Assault Awareness, Prevention Month

Washington—Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) today introduced a bipartisan resolution in support of National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.

“A sexual assault occurs almost every minute in our country but most won’t be reported,” said Senator Feinstein. “We need to remove the stigma associated with sexual assault so more victims are comfortable speaking out. Our resolution will help raise awareness, combat this problem and encourage more victims to speak out.”

“There is no act more destructive to human dignity than sexual assault, and its prevalence in our country is inexcusable,” Senator Cornyn said. “I’m proud to introduce this resolution to show that the Senate stands united with victims of sexual assault in their pursuit of justice.”

“Especially in these trying and confusing times, we must stand with survivors around the country. Sexual assault should never be tolerated – not in our schools or our college campuses, in our military or anywhere else in society,” said Senator Ernst. “Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month serves as an opportunity to call attention to these heinous crimes and the need to change the culture surrounding them. Together with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, I will continue working to empower my fellow survivors, ensure that perpetrators are held accountable, and put an end to sexual assault.”

“National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month is an opportunity to raise awareness surrounding these terrible acts and pledge our support to survivors, many of whom carry the trauma of assault with them for years,” said Senator Grassley. “This resolution expresses Congress’ support for survivors and applauds advocates who provide much-needed assistance not just in the month of April but every single day in the year. It also highlights the need to prevent and prosecute crimes of sexual violence across the country.”

“It is so important to recognize the toll sexual violence takes on our society and the imperative to support survivors,” said Terri Poore, policy director of the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence. “We’re grateful to Senators Feinstein, Cornyn, Leahy, Ernst and Grassley for recognizing Sexual Assault Awareness Month and honoring survivors, rape crisis centers and state sexual assault coalitions with this Senate resolution.”

“We appreciate Senators Feinstein, Cornyn, Leahy, Ernst and Grassley for recognizing the importance of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, for their longstanding dedication to survivors and for their leadership in combating sexual violence,” said Scott Berkowitz, president of the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). “It sends a strong message to the millions of survivors across the country, including the more than 300,000 helped by RAINN’s victim service programs each year, that they are not alone and have important allies who will fight for them.”

Full text of the resolution follows:

Whereas the Senate is committed to the awareness, prevention, and deterrence of sexual violence affecting individuals in the United States;

Whereas, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey, between 2008 and 2018, approximately—

(1)  3,434,326 women were victims of rape and sexual assault; and

(2)  523,895 men were victims of rape and sexual assault;

Whereas, due to the unprecedented challenges presented by the COVID–19 pandemic, including mandatory stay-at-home orders, the needs of sexual assault victims have become even more complex and challenging;

Whereas, according to a March 2020 survey by the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence of more than 600 rape crisis programs, 89 percent of those programs need emergency stimulus funding to respond to requests from survivors for support and emergency assistance;

Whereas, according to the March 2020 survey, since the onset of the COVID–19 pandemic, 40 percent of the programs surveyed have experienced an increased demand for services both in terms of new requests and more dire and complicated requests from existing clients, including requests relating to technology needs for virtual services and emergency needs of vulnerable survivors;

Whereas, during the pandemic, many rape crisis centers have had to cancel signature fundraisers and have experienced overall decreases in private donations;

Whereas, according to the 2018 Child Maltreatment Report of the Department of Health and Human Services, in 2018, child protective services agencies substantiated or found strong evidence to indicate that 47,124 children under 18 years of age were victims of sexual abuse;

Whereas, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey, between 2014 and 2018, an average of only 29 percent of rapes or sexual assaults in the United States were reported to law enforcement agencies;

Whereas studies have suggested that the rate at which American Indians and Alaska Natives experience sexual violence is significantly higher than for other populations in the United States;

Whereas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1/2 of all female rape victims reported being raped by an intimate partner;

Whereas sexual violence is a burden for many individuals who serve in the Armed Forces, and the Department of Defense estimates that approximately 20,500 members of the Armed Forces, including approximately 13,000 women and 7,500 men, experienced some form of contact or penetrative sexual assault during 2018;

Whereas sexual assault does not discriminate on any basis and can affect any individual in the United States;

Whereas sexual violence may take many forms, including acquaintance, stranger, spousal, and gang rape, incest, child sexual abuse, elder sexual abuse, sexual abuse and exploitation of disabled persons, commercial sex trafficking, sexual harassment, and stalking;

Whereas, according to the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, in addition to immediate physical and emotional costs, sexual assault can have numerous adverse consequences for the victim, which may include post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, major depression, homelessness, eating disorders, and suicide;

Whereas, according to a 2019 survey of rape crisis centers by the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, 1/2 of such centers have a waiting list, in some cases months long, for counseling services, 44 percent lack a therapist on staff, and 84 percent have experienced an increased demand for services;

Whereas many sexual assaults are not reported to law enforcement agencies, and many States have restrictive criminal statutes of limitations, which enable many perpetrators to evade punishment for their crimes;

Whereas advances in deoxyribonucleic acid (commonly known as “DNA”) technology have enabled law enforcement agencies to identify and prosecute the perpetrators in tens of thousands of previously unsolved sexual assault cases;

Whereas incarceration of sexual assault perpetrators can prevent perpetrators from committing additional crimes;

Whereas national, State, territorial, and Tribal coalitions, community-based rape crisis centers, and other organizations across the United States are committed to—

(1)  increasing public awareness of sexual violence and the prevalence of sexual violence; and

(2)  eliminating sexual violence through prevention and education;

Whereas important partnerships have been formed among criminal and juvenile justice agencies, health professionals, public health workers, educators, first responders, and victim service providers;

Whereas thousands of volunteers and staff at rape crisis centers, State coalitions against sexual assault, and nonprofit organizations across the United States play an important role in making crisis hotlines and other services available to survivors of sexual assault;

Whereas free, confidential help is available to all victims and survivors of sexual assault through—

(1)  the National Sexual Assault Hotline—

(A) by telephone at 800–656–HOPE; and

(B) online at https://hotline.rainn.org; and

(2)  more than 1,000 sexual assault service providers across the United States;

Whereas the victim service programs of the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (commonly known as “RAINN”), including the National Sexual Assault Hotline—

(1)  in 2019, helped 304,275 survivors of sexual assault and their loved ones, which represented the greatest number of people assisted since the founding of the hotline in 1994; and

(2)  continue to receive a record number of requests for support in 2020;

Whereas the Department of Defense provides the Safe Helpline hotline, Safe HelpRoom online chat service, and Safe Helpline mobile application, each of which offer support and help to members of the Department of Defense community—

(1)  by telephone at 877–995–5247; and

(2)  online at https://safehelpline.org;

Whereas individual and collective efforts reflect the dream of the people of the United States—

(1)  for individuals and organizations to actively work to prevent all forms of sexual violence; and

(2)  for no victim of sexual assault to be unserved or feel that there is no path to justice; and

Whereas April 2020 is recognized as “National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month”: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That—

(1)  it is the sense of the Senate that—

(A) National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month provides a special opportunity to—

(i) educate the people of the United States about sexual violence; and

(ii) encourage—

(I) the prevention of sexual assault;

(II) improvement in the treatment of survivors of sexual assault; and

(III) the prosecution of perpetrators of sexual assault;

(B) it is appropriate to properly acknowledge survivors of sexual assault and to commend the volunteers and professionals who assist those survivors in their efforts to heal;

(C) national and community organizations and private sector supporters should be recognized and applauded for their work in—

(i) promoting awareness about sexual assault;

(ii) providing information and treatment to survivors of sexual assault; and

(iii) increasing the number of successful prosecutions of perpetrators of sexual assault; and

(D) public safety, law enforcement, and health professionals should be recognized and applauded for their hard work and innovative strategies to ensure perpetrators of sexual assault are held accountable; and

(2)  the Senate supports the goals and ideals of National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.

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