April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). The goal of SAAM is to raise public awareness about sexual violence and educate communities on how to prevent it. Sexual assault is a serious and widespread problem. Nearly 1 in 5 women in the U.S. have experienced rape or attempted rape some time in their lives, and 1 in 71 American men have experienced rape or attempted rape (Black et al., 2011).
This year’s theme for National SAAM, “Engaging New Voices”, is designed to encourage and inform a wider audience - including Greek Life, Coaches, Parents, and Faith Leaders - on how they can take action to promote safety, respect, and equality to stop sexual violence before it happens. The good news is that prevention is possible and it’s happening. Individuals, communities, and the private sector are already using conversations, programs, policies, and research-based tools that promote safety, respect, and equality to help combat the risk of sexual violence.
Scope of the Problem
Thousands of Marylanders are affected by sexual violence each year. It is estimated that 1 in five (or 466,000) adult women have been forcibly raped and 1 in six (or 359,000) adult men have experienced sexual violence at some point in their lifetimes (NISVS, 2010). According to the CDC, sexual violence can have harmful and lasting consequences for survivors, families, and communities. Consequences may be physical, psychological, and/or social. As a result of the trauma caused by sexual violence, survivors may use coping strategies that increase health risks, such as sexual promiscuity, drugs and alcohol, food, or self-harm.
The Rape and Sexual Assault Prevention Program (RSAPP) aims to reduce the statewide incidence of rape and sexual assault through education, collaboration, and professional training.
In 1996, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH), Center for Health Promotion, received a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to address rape prevention and education in the state of Maryland. The Rape and Sexual Assault Prevention Program (RSAPP) was established to provide education, training, and technical support to reduce the incidence of rape and sexual violence in Maryland.
RSAPP works with stakeholders to improve collaboration and increase awareness of sexual violence, provide opportunities for professional development through training and technical assistance activities, and funds projects that aim to reduce sexual violence in Maryland. RSAPP partners include:
School-Based Sexual Harassment/Assault Prevention Program (SHAPP)
DHMH partners with the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) on the Sexual Harassment/Assault Prevention Program (SHAPP). SHAPP focuses on the primary prevention of bullying, teasing, harassment, sexual abuse, rape, and dating violence in the lives of Maryland youth. Through SHAPP, MSDE provides enhanced educational programs for elementary, middle, and high school students and professional development opportunities for teachers and other education personnel throughout the state.
Community-based Rape and Sexual Assault Prevention
In collaboration with the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP), DHMH provides financial support to the state's rape crisis and recovery centers for prevention education and awareness in the community. The sexual assault programs provide educational seminars, hotline services, training programs for professionals, print materials, and other resources to increase awareness of rape and sexual assault.
Statewide Prevention Efforts
The Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Inc. (MCASA) is the federally recognized statewide umbrella organization for sexual assault. MCASA advocates for improved survivor services and victims' rights through education, program assistance, and legislation on a statewide level. MCASA’s members are the state’s rape crisis and recovery centers. To find your local sexual assault program in Maryland, visit MCASA’s webpage.
College-based Sexual Assault Prevention
The college-based sexual assault prevention program engages students in sexual violence prevention on their college campus. The participating colleges provide sexual violence prevention programming, such as bystander intervention and programming to engage men as allies in the effort to end sexual violence.
Statewide Prevention Planning Committee
DHMH coordinates a statewide group to address the prevention of intimate partner violence, sexual violence, stalking, and child sexual abuse in Maryland. This group promotes primary prevention and awareness strategies to use with targeted audiences and underserved populations across the state.
Maryland Women of Color Network (MWOCN)
In partnership with the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MCASA), DHMH supports the annual MWOCN conference. The goal of this conference is to bring together local professionals to address sexual violence in underserved communities across Maryland. The conference includes national and local speakers and is a full day of plenary and break-out sessions.
Ongoing evaluation of program effectiveness, impact, and reach of sexual violence prevention activities is conducted by DHMH. DHMH aims to increase the utilization of evidence-based and evidence-informed strategies among grantees and subgrantees. DHMH works with researchers to help accomplish this goal.
Past RSAPP Initiatives
201 W. Preston Street, Baltimore, MD 21201-2399
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