U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Announces Observance of April Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month
WASHINGTON — Today, April 1, is the first day of both Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAM). Started in 2001, SAAM is a national and local campaign to raise public awareness of the very serious issue of sexual assault. “As the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia handles the prosecution of all District of Columbia sexual assault cases involving adult offenders, and some of the most serious cases involving juvenile offenders, my staff and I are on the front lines of combating sexual violence. As we do every year during April, we are using SAAM as an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to lifting the veil of silence and shame that can muzzle victims and to expanding our support for them,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Timothy J. Shea. Grim statistics reflect the sad reality that the issue is widespread and that victims span all ages, genders, backgrounds, and situations. Data collected by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, for example, indicates that:
- approximately 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives;
- in 8 out of 10 cases of rape the victim knows the perpetrator;
- 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old;
- 34% of people who sexually abuse a child are family members of the child;
- an estimated 325,000 children per year are currently at risk of becoming victims of commercial child sexual exploitation; and
- 27% of college women have experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact.
See https://www.nsvrc.org/statistics. There is no question that sexual abuse can leave victims and their families with long-lasting emotional and physical scars.
U.S. Attorney Shea also stated, “I recognize that sheltering in place and other restrictions during the pandemic make this a particularly frightening time for sexual and physical assault of child and adult victims, as the places they can go to disclose abuse and seek safety – teachers, clergy, emergency shelters, co-workers, and friends – have become largely unavailable. Eradicating sexual exploitation and sexual abuse is one of my highest priorities. Despite the current health emergency, my staff of highly trained and dedicated prosecutors and advocates, along with our governmental and non-governmental partners, are continuing to actively identify and assist sexual assault victims and aggressively investigate and prosecute sexual offenders. Our efforts have been extremely successful.” For example, in the last few weeks:
- After a lengthy trial, a D.C. District Court jury convicted Terrell Armstead of Sex Trafficking by Force, Fraud, and Coercion. He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison, a maximum sentence of life in prison, and, upon release, will have to register as a sex offender for life.
- Prosecutors in the Superior Court’s Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Section (SODV), along with detectives from the Metropolitan Police Department’s Youth and Family Services Division, investigated and charged a D.C. man with Kidnapping While Armed for brandishing a gun and forcing an adult victim, with whom he had been in a relationship, into his car, driving her to Maryland, and then sexually assaulting her.
- Partnering with local and federal law enforcement agents on the Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force, prosecutors in the Criminal Division’s Cyber Section investigated and charged a man with Production of Child Pornography related to hands-on sexual abuse of a child living in his home.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia also is assisting its non-governmental partners and continuing to educate community members about this critical issue. For example, members of SODV and the Victim Witness Assistance Unit are:
- providing daily case screening information to a D.C. non-governmental organization that provides 24-7 crisis intervention and emergency services to victims of sexual or physical domestic violence because members of that organization do not have remote access to that critical information;
- exploring how our office’s trained forensic interviewers can conduct emergency interviews of child sexual assault victims; and
- conducting a remote training for students at a D.C. high school on the legal and emotional aspects of sexual assault and consent.
“My staff and I will work diligently with the local and federal courts and our non-governmental and law enforcement partners during and after SAAM to ensure the safety and wellbeing of these vulnerable individuals in our community,” emphasized U.S. Attorney Shea.