Each year the month of April is dedicated to raising awareness about sexual violence around the world and educating communities on how to prevent it. During this past year, many people around the world have been at home more to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but this has caused a pandemic within a pandemic for those experiencing domestic or sexual violence.
Over the past 10 years, the World Health Organization reported that 1 in 3 women, or around 736 million, have been subjected to physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner or sexual violence from a non-partner. Studies also found domestic violence reports often increase substantially after catastrophic events. Worse, while domestic violence agencies remain open, other key organizations will likely stay shuttered longer due to COVID-19 than they typically would because of a natural disaster. Subsequently, this past year, reports of sexual assault and domestic violence have increased worldwide.
In fact, a BMC Medical study found a decrease in ED admissions for sexual assault and domestic violence during COVID-19, despite societal conditions that elevate the risk of violence. Because of this, trends in care-seeking and assault patterns will require ongoing monitoring to inform the provision of optimal support for individuals experiencing violence, particularly as countries begin to re-open or lock-down again.
“The impact of sexual assault can have lifetime effects for survivors and their families,” said Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. “In April we recognize Sexual Assault Awareness Month and the need for continued education to better serve survivors and hold their offenders accountable. It is a month dedicated to standing with survivors of sexual assault – honoring and amplifying their voices while providing education on the dynamics and realities of this crime.”
If you or someone you know is at heightened risk due to the pandemic, the DPSS Special Victims Unit (SVU) can assist or connect you with resources.
“We want to encourage survivors of sexual assault to seek help and reduce any barriers or perceived barriers to reporting,” said UMPD Chief Neumann.
Seeking help or filing a police report will not result in discipline if another law was broken such as underage drinking, drug use, or COVID gathering restrictions.
“Using alcohol or drugs does not make you responsible when someone assaults you, and our officers will not bring drug or alcohol charges against a person who has reported a sexual assault,” said Neumann.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, we recognize that reporting can be difficult. Our SVU officers work to ensure that survivors are treated with respect, sensitivity, and understanding. UMPD SVU officers Start by Believing, have extensive training in the trauma-informed approach, and work closely with SAPAC and other campus resources.
You can report an incident or contact our SVU by calling 734-763-1131.
If you are in immediate danger, call 911.