Sexual assault awareness month is a campaign run by National Sexual Violence Research Center, which has been held since 2001. It is a campaign aiming to increase awareness about the causes and risk factors of sexual assault and empower individuals to take steps to prevent it in their communities.
Sexual violence is a serious public health and human rights problem with many consequences on victim’s physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health. Whether it occurs by an intimate partner, family, during times of conflict or other, it is a deeply violating and painful experience for the survivor.
Many survivors of sexual assault report flashbacks of their assault, and feelings of shame, isolation, shock and guilt. They also have an increased risk of developing; depression, PTSD, substance use disorders, eating disorders and anxiety. As sexual assault can have such serious impacts on mental health, it is important that services and supports consider and address the trauma that many have experienced.
According to RAINN, every 92 seconds someone is sexually assaulted in the United States alone. One survey that focused on teenage girls who had been sexually assaulted found that after a few months following the event, 80% of them developed one mental health disorder and 55% had at least two mental health disorders. Without professional mental health support and treatment, it could lead to devastating results.
There has been a large focus on sexual assault and consent in Denmark during the last couple of years. Lasy year the Danish government passed a rape law based on consent, which was “a huge step towards equality” according to Amnesty, who has been fighting for better protection of sexual assault victims for more than a decade. With a consent-based rape law, it is no longer only the presence of violence or threats of violence that determines whether a rape occurred. The focus will be on whether both parties agreed to have sex, and what both parties did to ensure that there was consent. One of the reasons for the new law being passed was because of the previous rape law emphasised that there must be violence or threats of violence present before it could be convicted as rape. However, in reality it is a completely natural physical and mental reaction to “freeze” during the abuse and, therefore, not being able to fight back. A Swedish study from 2017 showed that 70% of the 298 survivors of rape froze during the assault, meaning that with the previous law, it would not be able to be convicted as assault. Denmark is the 12th country in Europe to pass a consent law, and more countries, such as Holland, are currently passing similar laws.
If you are in need of help, wants to know how to help someone close to you, or want to educate yourself further on the subject, here are some Danish organizations which helps sexual trauma survivors in different manners:
https://voldsofre.dk/ (only in Danish)
Help Victims of Violence offers to help and guide victims, relatives and others after a crime – including person-related crimes such as violence, robbery, rape and other sexual assaults.
The Danish Women’s Society’s Shelter is a separate and independent unit below the Danish Women Society, which runs two residence and counselling centres. They offer anonymous counselling for both victims and relatives.
Centre for victims of rape holds nine 24-hour rape victims centres.
LOKK – The national organisation of women’s shelters in Denmark is an NGO whose purpose is to strengthen the individual crisis shelters work to prevent and fight physically and psychologically violence against women and children. LOKK can for example help find the closest available women’s shelter and has a 24-hour anonymous hotline
Mandecentret is an organisation providing support for men who have been victims of violence.
Sarah Jensen – Head of Gender Equality Working Group, UNYA Aalborg