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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month: A call for action & awareness

by Dr. Lydia Lormand, obstetrician/gynecologist

The statistics are shocking. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), one in five women will be raped at some point in their lives. In eight out of 10 cases, the victim knows her assaulter (for college students, it’s nine out of 10). Perhaps this is why rape is the most under-reported crime; 63 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the police.

There may be many reasons why women don’t report being sexually assaulted. They can feel ashamed and embarrassed. They may blame themselves. They may think no one will believe them, especially if their attacker is someone they know.

That’s why at Women’s Health Associates, we believe that developing trusting relationships with our patients is essential – we want our patients to feel comfortable discussing any health-related issues with us, including sexual assault.

Beyond the legal ramifications of sexual assault, there is a tremendous toll taken on a woman’s health, both physically and emotionally. All of our doctors and nurse-midwives are trained to recognize the signs of sexual assault, and to talk sensitively with women about any concerns they have. An open, honest, and trusting relationship with our patients is imperative so that we can provide the best care possible.

In addition to the physical injuries or effects of sexual assault, which may include permanent damage, pregnancy, or sexually transmitted infections, victims of sexual assault are also at higher risk for:
  • Depression and anxiety, and difficulty concentrating
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), including nightmares and flashbacks
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance use/abuse

What you can do

Everyone can play a role in helping to preventing sexual violence. The NSVRC offers these suggestions:
  • Be a role model for respectful relationships
  • Believe survivors and help them find resources
  • Speak up when you hear harmful comments or witness acts of disrespect and violence
  • Create policies at work and school
  • Ask your legislators to support prevention programs
If you are a victim of sexual assault, tell someone so that you can get the help you need. The assault was NOT YOUR FAULT, no matter the circumstances. Each survivor reacts differently, but it is a burden you should not bear alone. Even if it’s been days, months, or even years since the assault, talk to someone you trust, and be sure to let your health care provider know.

If you need a woman’s health care provider, the doctors and nurse-midwives at Women’s Health Associates are welcoming new patients in our Springfield and Westfield locations. Book online or call us for an appointment.