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Sexual Assault Awareness: An Important Subject That Affects Everyone

By Dr. Tom Allen, Executive Medical Director, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois 

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but sexual assault is a year-round issue for hundreds of thousands of women. Sexual assault is a serious public health problem, and the most common — yet least reported — crime in the U.S.

Sexual violence is defined as any type of unwanted sexual contact, including language and actions of a sexual nature directed toward another person against their will. It can range from sexist language and actions to rape and homicide.

Studies about sexual violence show that nationwide, 81% of women report some form of sexual harassment or assault in their lifetime. One in five women in the U.S. have been a victim of rape or attempted rape. But sexual assault isn’t limited to women. More than 40% of men are victims of sexual harassment, and nearly a quarter have experienced some form of sexual violence.

Children between the ages of 11 and 17 are at highest risk of sexual assault. On college campuses, one in five women — and one in 16 men — are sexually assaulted.

Victims can suffer from short-term or long-term post traumatic stress disorder and may need health care to address the trauma. Victim services often are offered by community organizations such as rape crisis centers.

All of us can play a role in creating a safe environment. If you suspect a friend or family member is being abused, be there for them. offers tips on ways you can help a friend. Try to not judge victims, but believe what they tell you, let them know you are worried for them and want to help. Step in to stop problematic and disrespectful conduct and help victims find resources. And in all things, model healthy attitudes, behaviors and relationships.

The above material is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician. Physicians and other health care providers are encouraged to use their own best medical judgment based upon all available information and the condition of the patient in determining the best course of treatment.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, a Division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company, an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association