In 1999, 9,443 people in California were victims of rape. The ability of law enforcement agencies, the judicial system, community organizations and rape crisis centers to effectively respond and punish perpetrators is compromised by the reality that our society does not emphatically discourage violence in relationships, the media or in our communities.
We can continue to help the victim, but we do so knowing that the larger solutions require more than the immediate crisis-response services can give. As the old adage goes, we continue to pull people out of the water at the mouth of the river, but we'll never solve the problem until we stop whomever is pushing the people in upstream.
This year's theme for Sexual Assault Awareness Month is "Speak Out Against Sexual Violence." Preventing sexual assault requires that everyone in the community — in places of worship, in the educational system, in the public sector and in government — raise their voices against sexual violence. Together, we must reject the idea that violence in relationships is acceptable and that victims of sexual assault are somehow to blame for the crime committed against them. Instead, we can advocate positive ideas of acceptable behavior in relationships and develop a plan for inoculating our community against sexual assault and violence.