Handling the trauma of sexual assault

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Two out of five women and one in five men have been victims of sexual assault in the state of Texas. 

Abuse has no age limit. One in nine girls and one in 53 boys under the age of 18 have also experience sexual assault. 

Tragically, less than 10% of all sexual assaults are reported to police, due to victims' fear of not being believed. 

"I want to make sure people understand that sexual assault is any unwanted sexual contact or forced sexual experience that isn't what you want," said Houston Area Women's Center CEO Emilee Whitehurst. "I also want people to know that it's not your fault. You didn't ask for that, you didn't deserve that, and you can call us."

Talking about the complex emotions that can come up after a forced sexual encounter can be therapeutic, and can help in the process of recovery. 

Many individuals are coming forward in the public eye to report past experiences with public figures, most recently Joe Biden. It has raised questions of how sexual assault is truly defined.

"It's such an important and wonderful thing about this moment, we're really having a public dialogue about what consent involves," Whitehurst said. "When people call our hotline, we aren't going to ask them to prove if it was or wasn't consentual."

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina is notorious for her sentencing Larry Nassar to 175 years in prison for his continued assaults on the women's U.S. gymnastics team. She will be attending a local luncheon on Thursday, April 18 where people can come and hear her tell her story.

"She let 156 gymnasts come up and tell her story. You shouldn't ever feel like you have to tell your story, but if you want to, you can call us and know it will be a safe, confidential space," said Whitehurst. 

The Houston Area Women's Center has a 24-hour hotline available for those needing support following a sexual assault. Free, confidential counseling is a service offered to anyone, no matter the age or time lapsed since the assault. It can be reached at 713-528-7273.