*This is a guest blog post written by Kelly Hagler, Communications and Youth Advocacy Officer at Together for Girls
For many college students in the U.S., the month of April marks the inevitable cramming for finals and the euphoric realization that summer is close. But for too many young women, their college experience is anything but euphoric. One in five will likely leave campus this summer having experienced sexual assault.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), which is dedicated to raising awareness and educating communities about the magnitude of sexual violence across the country and the actions needed to prevent it. Born from the 1970s Take Back the Night marches in England, SAAM has a rich history that continues to grow.
This year, the SAAM campaign focuses on preventing campus sexual violence—an all too familiar topic currently saturating headlines across the country. But the truth is, sexual violence is far from a U.S.-only problem—it’s a global human rights issue of epidemic proportions. Recent reports paint a troubling picture of who is exactly at the center of this global crisis: Adolescent girls. UNICEF’s 2014 “Hidden in Plain Sight” report details the alarming extent of physical, sexual and emotional abuse against children across 190 countries, citing that globally, about one in 10 girls (about 120 million) under the age of 20 have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts.
Countries Taking the Lead to Protect Children
As a global public-private partnership working to end violence against children—particularly sexual violence against girls— the work of Together for Girls is directly tied to the mission of SAAM. Our partners, including UNICEF, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Government of Canada, work together with country governments to conduct national-level Violence Against Children Surveys (VACS) to understand and respond to the magnitude, nature and consequences of violence against children.
Here, we highlight four data points from the VACS that illustrate the global pervasiveness of sexual violence against children and what country governments are doing to stop it.
1. One-stop centers in Kenya utilize simple processes to ensure survivors are able to seek support, vital medical services and avoid additional trauma. It's now easier for women and children to receive comprehensive post-rape care and treatment to prevent HIV, as well as various support services.
2. In Swaziland, mobile technology is a youth-friendly tool to help survivors confidentially report violence and seek answers about health concerns.
3. Community-driven awareness about the long-term consequences of corporal punishment is taking shape throughout Tanzania. Programs include parenting classes, radio broadcasts and more.
4. In the new Girls' and Young Women's Empowerment Framework, Zimbabwe is using safe spaces and education to develop girl-focused skills across a range of areas, providing them with tools to help them protect themselves against unwanted sex and other forms of violence.
No matter the location, every citizen has a part to play in ending sexual violence, and Sexual Assault Awareness Month is the perfect time to begin taking action. For starters, you can learn about the issue, question behaviors that silence survivors and confront people or organizations perpetuating violence. Achieving an equal, safe life for all—both locally and globally—starts with removing the silence that too often surrounds violence.
To learn more about what country governments and the Together for Girls partnership are doing to prevent and respond to violence against children, visit togetherforgirls.org. You can also find other solutions to ending violence in Together for Girls’ full Data2Action infographic. To learn more about what UNICEF is doing to protect children from violence, exploitation and abuse, in partnership with Together for Girls and others, visit UNICEF's #EndViolence site.