THE BLOG

Sexual Assault, Rape and Dating Abuse Exist; Affect 1 in 3

05/05/2015 03:05 pm ET | Updated May 05, 2016

With Jameis Winston being selected as the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, there is likely to be a spotlight on sexual assault and dating abuse. While some will question his guilt or innocence, the important messages concerning sexual assault prevention, rape education and abuser accountability and rehabilitation shouldn't get lost in the firestorms that surround these high profile incidents. Beyond raising awareness, we have to take a hard look at addressing the root of the abusive behavior.

More than 1 in 3 women (35.6 percent) and more than 1 in 4 men (28.5 percent) in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. We know that these heinous acts are often a prelude to even worse actions as each and every day, three women die at the hands of their spouse, boyfriend, or former partner.

Here at The Hotline and loveisrespect, a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and Break the Cycle, we hear from the young women and men who suffer sexual assault and violence from abusive partners each and every day. And with 1 in 3 U.S. teens experiencing some form of dating abuse, we know this problem is prevalent in our communities and will continue to be unless we take action. It's important to start talking early about fostering healthy dating attitudes and relationships -- as well as educating teens and young adults about how to identify and avoid abusive behaviors.

Our prevention programs at loveisrespect include resources available for educators and parents to help teens and young adults. We are engaging with schools all over the country, participating in college and high-school events and providing them with tools they can use in the classroom. We are focused on growing these educational efforts and welcome community involvement and support.

The Hotline and loveisrespect also offer online resources for those who feel they might be abusive and would like to seek help. There are programs dedicated solely to helping abusers through batterer intervention programs.

People need to understand that while change is possible, it is not easy. Someone who engages in abusive behavior can stop if there is an honest willingness to change and diligence applied to the process of changing coupled with the understanding that it will take time. Taking full responsibility for their actions and seeking help is the first step to living lives that don't result in verbal, physical or sexually abusive behavior. And those who do so should be supported and surrounded by people who hold them accountable for their actions.

High-profile cases and serious accusations make headlines. The best way we, as a global community, can stand up for victims and show that sexual assault, rape and dating abuse are not tolerable is by preventing it in the first place. Let's educate and spread understanding of what a healthy relationship looks like, and allow those seeking help with their abusive behavior to be given the chance to nurture change.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is a non-profit organization providing victims and survivors with life-saving tools and immediate support. Loveisrespect is a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and Break the Cycle where highly trained peer advocates offer free phone, text and chat services to young people 24/7/365. Callers to the hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) can expect highly trained advocates to offer compassionate support, crisis intervention information and referral services in more than 200 languages. Visitors to TheHotline.org and loveisrespect.org can find information about domestic violence, safety planning, local resources, and ways to support the organization.

The Hotline relies on the generous support of individuals, private gifts from corporations and foundations and federal grants. It is funded in part by Grant Number 90EV0407/03 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)/ Family Violence Prevention and Services Program, a division of the Family and Youth Services Bureau in the Administration for Children and Families. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Administration for Children and Families or the U.S. Department of HHS.