April Sexual Assault Awareness Month Events
If you have been sexually assaulted, know that you are not alone, and that there are people who can help. Remember - the assault was not your fault.
Contact someone to help you - a friend, the police, a Sexual Assault Center Program advocate. A Sexual Assault Center advocate is available to talk with you about safety and any other concerns. They will also accompany you to the hospital and police station, if you choose to report the assault. To speak with an advocate contact the Alexandria Sexual Assault Hotline at 703.683-7273.
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In August of 1975, the Alexandria Commission on the Status of Women established the Rape Victim Companion Program, which later became the Sexual Assault Response and Awareness Program, then in 2011, the Alexandria Sexual Assault Center. The program offers support to victims of sexual assault and their families and friends.
Trained volunteers and staff are available 24 hours a day to provide:
In addition to services for individuals, the staff is also available to provide trainings, information, and presentations to local schools and organizations.
The Sexual Assault Center offers services for:
Many services are offered in both English and Spanish. Staff and volunteers use a confidential translation service to support survivors who speak many more languages.
Sexual assault is an act of sexual violence and aggression which occurs when a person is forced, threatened, or coerced into sexual contact without his/her consent. Sexual assault is committed primarily out of anger and/or a need to feel powerful by controlling, dominating, or humiliating the victim. Examples of sexual assault include: rape, sodomy, fondling, indecent exposure, peeping Toms, obscene phone calls, childhood sexual abuse, and sexual harassment.
Survivors of sexual assault may experience a variety of after-effects in unique and individual ways. A survivor may feel:
Sexual harassment is unwanted and unwelcomed sexual behavior. Sexual harassment may result from words or conduct of a sexual nature that offend, stigmatize, demean, frighten, or threaten you because of your sex.
Sexual harassment is defined by the person being targeted. The target of sexual harassment and the perpetrator (the one doing the harassing) do not have to agree about what is happening.
Sexual harassment can happen once or many times. Being the target of sexual harassment may make it scary to go to work/school or hard to concentrate. Incidents of sexual harassment may cause the target to feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, or threatened.
Employers and school district officials are legally responsible to guarantee a safe environment which is free from sexual harassment and sex discrimination.
Some forms of sexual harassment are also crimes and should be reported to the police or district attorney so that the perpetrator(s) can be prosecuted.
Tips If You Feel You Are the Target of Sexual Harassment
A friend or a loved one who has been sexually assaulted may confide in you five minutes or five years after the assault. As someone close to a survivor you can offer invaluable assistance, and can make a significant difference in her/his recovery.
Ways to Help
Survivors of sexual assault or childhood sexual abuse sometimes find it helpful to talk about their feelings with others who have had similar experiences. All groups are time limited, and address a variety of issues related to sexual violence. Discussion topics may include: guilt, shame, fear, anger, trust, self-esteem and relationships with family and friends. Listed below are groups offered throughout the year by the Sexual Assault Center. The times and dates are subject to change, and this webpage will be updated accordingly. Unless otherwise noted, all groups will be held at the Sexual Assault Center at 421 King Street in Alexandria. See the flyer on support groups. Please call the Sexual Assault Hotline at 703.683.7273 for more information or to register for a group or class.*Pre-registration is required for all groups and classesAdult Survivors of Childhood Sexual AssaultThis is a ten-week group for women who were sexual assaulted as children that will address the impact that the sexual abuse has had on survivors’ lives and explore methods that survivors may use to help them cope with and heal from the abuse. All group members must be receiving individual therapy or case management services while in the group. All members will meet with a Sexual Assault Center group facilitator before group begins. See the flyer for more information.
Adult Survivors of Sexual Assault
This is an eight-week group for women who have been sexually assaulted as adults. This group will explore the impact that sexual assault has had on survivors’ lives and will address topics connected to healing from the assault. All members must meet with a Sexual Assault Center group facilitator before group begins. See the flyer for more information.
Risk reduction focuses on the potential victims by offering a variety of strategies that may reduce the possibility of being sexually assaulted. People often ask what they can do to keep themselves safe. Risk-reduction strategies such as self-defense or general safety tips can be helpful. Yet, it is important to remember that whether or not risk reduction measures are taken, a victim is NEVER responsible for preventing her or his assault.
Below is a list of suggested methods that may reduce your risk of being sexually assaulted. However, this is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but rather a resource to increase your knowledge and available options. If you should find yourself in a dangerous situation, TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. Some people feel comfortable and are able to defend themselves physically others do not or cannot. Submitting to the demands and threats of an attacker IS a viable and reasonable option. The goal is to survive. Submission to an attacker as a result of force, threat and/or intimidation is rape.
In Your Home
On Public Transportation
Out and About
In Your Car
Before an Extended Trip
In a Hotel
MYTH: The primary motive for rape is sexual.FACT: The motive for rape is aggression and power, not sex. Rapists have a desire to dominate, humiliate and degrade their victims. Rape is not the result of “pent up” sexual desire, as many offenders report that they do not enjoy the sex act per se during rape. In fact, most offenders have access to a sexual relationship with a spouse or lover.
MYTH: People are sexually assaulted because they “ask for it” in some way.FACT: Attempts to shift the burden of blame from the offender to the victim/survivor by implying that “he/she asked for it” are common. There is nothing a person does or does not do to “deserve” a sexual assault – the way a person dresses, the amount of alcohol consumption, or sexual history of a person are often used as excuses to justify the rapist's behavior. By blaming the victim/survivor, the attention is directed away from the offender, diminishing the offender's responsibility for the attack. Blaming a person for the rape because of how the person acts or what the person wears is like blaming a bank for being robbed because it “tempted” the thief with all that money.
MYTH: A person can nearly always prevent an assault by resisting the attacker.FACT: Every sexual assault is unique and the issue of resistance and submission should be evaluated individually. Resistance could deter an attack or it could conceivably increase one's chances of injury and perhaps result in death. The victim/survivor needs to do whatever they feel comfortable doing to extricate themself from the situation. The person should rely on their instincts and whatever the person does is correct for them. Even if the person must submit, this does not imply consent, and in fact, may keep them alive.
MYTH: Many people falsely report rape as a means of revenge or to get attention.FACT: Reported sexual assaults are true, with very few exceptions. The rate of "false reports" of rape (fabricated stories) is 2% to 3%, no different than that for other crimes. (Schafran, L.H. (1993). "Writing and reading about rape: A primer." St. John's Law Review, 66, 979-1045.) The general misconception of a high rate of false reports of sexual assaults may be confused with observations of low conviction rates of offenders.
MYTH: Rapists are easily identifiable by their physical appearance, actions or words.FACT: There is no standard mental or physical profile that defines a rapist. A rapist can be someone of any age, race, economic background, belief system or culture. Although the stereotype of the deranged stranger rapist abounds in our society, stranger rapes only make up around 20% of all sexual assaults and even then the stranger may not be a mentally disturbed person. The vast majority of rapists are people the victim/survivor knows, people she/he sees in day-to-day life.
MYTH: Women owe men sex under some circumstances.FACT: All people should have the freedom to make sexual choices regardless of the circumstances. Paying for dinner and a movie does not give someone the right to demand sex for repayment, nor should someone feel obligated to have sex because of these circumstances. Marriage is also not an excuse-spouses do not own one another's sexualities or bodies. 'No' still means no even in a marriage or partnership.
MYTH: Only the young or beautiful may be sexually assaulted.FACT: Victim/survivors range in age from a few months to 90 years and older and come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Rapists tend to choose victims for their perceived vulnerability and availability, without regard to their physical appearance. Attributing a sexual assault to a victim/survivor’s attractiveness perpetuates the myth that rape is primarily motivated by sexual desire. This myth inappropriately places blame and responsibility onto the victim/survivor because of her/his physical attributes.
MYTH: When a woman says “no,” she might really mean, “yes.”FACT: This myth is common in dating situations. When a person says “no,” that person’s partner must assume she means nothing other than “no.” It is also vital to point out that if a person does not explicitly consent to an act of sex, in the form of a “yes” or similar phrasing, that person has not consented. Silence on a person’s behalf must be taken as a “no” rather than consent. Rape is not just a matter of miscommunication--communication is vital in all sexual situations.
Volunteers are an integral part of the Sexual Assault Center. After a comprehensive training course, volunteers may become client advocates.
Volunteers respond to the 24-hour hotline on evenings and weekends. They provide emotional support and information to assist victims in regaining control of their lives. Volunteers also accompany victims of sexual assault to the police department and/or hospital.
If you are interested in volunteering, please call 703.746.3127 to obtain and submit an application to the volunteer coordinator.
Presentations and workshops on sexual assault and related topics are offered to community groups. This includes presentations for youth, adults and Spanish-speaking audiences. Other community education events include Denim Day, and Messages of Hope campaign held each April, which is recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Presentations are available upon request. To schedule a presentation for your group please call Ashley Blowe at the Sexual Assault Center at 703.746.3118.
Watch this space for future information on how you can advocate with your local and/or state representatives on sexual assault.
The Clothesline Project features t-shirts painted by women expressing their messages about violence.
Customer Call Center 703.746.5700
Intake for Adult Mental Health,Intellectual Disability & Substance Abuse Services703.746.3535
Intake for Child & Youth Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Intellectual Disability Waiver Services571.213.7963
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Adult Protective Services703.746.5778