April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Although no one will be profiled in our reproductive justice campaign this month, we want to emphasize how important it is within the reproductive justice movement to highlight this public health and human rights issue.
Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual contact, ranging from sexual harassment to rape. Sexual assault is a form of reproductive oppression that can cause short and long-term consequences on an individual’s reproductive health, including unintended pregnancy, inability to access emergency contraception within the right time frame, and a higher risk for contracting a sexually transmitted disease such as HIV.
One in five women and one in 67 men in the United States have experienced rape or attempted rape in their lifetime.  The statistics are more alarming for the LGBTQ community, which faces a higher rate of sexual abuse; violence starts as early as childhood for many queer survivors. The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey reports that 47% of transgender individuals are sexually assaulted in their lifetime, with American Indian (65%), multiracial (59%), Middle Eastern (58%), and Black (58%) respondents being the most affected.
The abundance of barriers, including stigma and lack of available services for quality care, are some of the many health disparities that marginalized people of color face. Other aspects of a survivor’s identity – such as race, sexuality, socio-economic status, disability, educational inequalities, and immigration status – play a role in their hesitance to ask for help from resources that are most likely going to stigmatize them precisely because of those aspects of their identity. A reproductive justice framework is needed to combat cultural incompetency, bias, and systemic abuse for a better outreach model for survivors and a more critical foundation for violence prevention.
Check out the National Sexual Violence Resource Center to learn more about their 2018 campaign “Embrace Your Voice!” If you want to learn more about the Reproductive Health Access Project’s patient-centered techniques to lower stress and anxiety for trauma survivors, check out our Trauma-informed Pelvic Exam Contraceptive Pearl.