April is both Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month.
“These awareness months shine a light on actions that communities can take to prevent sexual assault and child abuse and to support survivors,” said Stephanie Dominique, R.N., director of the Lake Regional Forensic Assessment and Consultation Team (FACT), which cares for patients impacted by violence, abuse and trauma. “No one likes to think about these crimes, but we need to be informed so we can bring about change.”
Get started with the following facts.
- Sexual assault is common. More than 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced sexual violence involving physical contact during their lifetime. In 2021, Lake Regional cared for 93 sexual assault survivors, including two human trafficking victims.
- Anyone can be a victim. Sexual assaults happen in every community, to people of all genders, sexual orientations, ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. “People tend to think that only women or children in certain situations are at risk, but we see men, women and children from a wide range of backgrounds who need our help,” Dominique said.
- Most victims know their perpetrator. In most cases, the perpetrator is not a stranger but a friend, current or former intimate partner, coworker, neighbor, or family member.
- Specialized medical care is available. Lake Regional Emergency Department has a room specifically equipped to treat victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse. The room is stocked with pharmaceuticals and lab supplies, as well as new clothing, a private shower and toiletries for survivors to use following an exam. These services are available 24/7.
- Our community has resources to support victims. The Lake Area Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) includes Lake Regional’s forensic nurses, local law enforcement and prosecutors’ offices, and survivor service providers Kids’ Harbor and Citizens Against Domestic Violence (CADV). The SART team supports survivors of sexual assault by providing medical interventions, investigative tools, prosecutorial strategies and advocacy support, all with the goal of holding perpetrators accountable for their crimes and helping survivors heal.
- There are four types of child abuse: physical abuse (intentionally causing physical harm), sexual abuse (ranging from inappropriate dialogue to rape), emotional abuse (such as repetitive shaming or isolating) and neglect (failing to provide adequate supervision, affection or support). Many acts fall in multiple categories.
- Child abuse is common. In 2021, Lake Regional and Kids Harbor provided care to 554 children and teenagers who suffered physical or sexual abuse.
- Poverty increases the risk. Rates of child abuse and neglect are five times higher for children in families with low socioeconomic status, according to the CDC.
- But it can happen to any child. Child abuse also happens in middle- and upper-class homes, and some abuse happens outside the home, for example, at school or in sports.
You Can Make a Difference
With both child abuse and ongoing sexual violence, there are often signs that someone needs help.
“The best fact to know: You can help stop sexual assault and child abuse,” Dominique said. “If you suspect sexual violence or child abuse and aren’t sure how to proceed, reach out either to CADV at 573.346.9630 or Kids’ Harbor at 573.348.6886. Caring, knowledgeable staff members will help you take the next step.”
Lake Regional Health System provides comprehensive health care services to residents and visitors throughout the mid-Missouri region. To learn more, visit lakeregional.com.