Picture all of your closest friends. Now imagine that nearly half of the women and a fifth of the men you're envisioning will experience some form of sexual violence during their lives. Now imagine that, in spite of how close you are, not all of them will tell you about it.
On a national level, this hypothetical is reality, according to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The real figures are likely even higher because many people don't talk about or report their abuse.
But as shocking as you might find them, these numbers can't tell you about the trauma, stress and depression an unwanted sexual experience can induce, or for how long that might last. These numbers don't reveal how others are affected in turn. They don't reflect how most perpetrators of sexual violence walk free without any consequences – never charged, never prosecuted and never jailed – or the culture that enables that. They don't probe how overlooked communities – Native Americans living on reservations or LGBT college students – grapple with sexual violence. They don't tell you anything about the uncounted stockpile of abandoned rape kits decaying in police storage facilities across the country. And they don't tell you what it feels like to gather the confidence to report your abuse to authorities, who then blame you for it.
That's why since launching in August, America Tonight has sought to tell the stories that do reflect those realities, to find and investigate the issues that go underreported and to propel serious conversations about efforts to stop sexual violence. It’s a specific thread of reporting all its own, one that we decided warrants deeper, more thoughtful consideration than it traditionally receives.
In the past, we've put that journalism into action, convening activists, researchers, government leaders and the public in a town hall that explored solutions. And we've asked you to share your survivor stories. But now, we want you to help us do something bigger: track sexual assault and sexual violence.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness month, and we're launching a new campaign, #TrackingAssault, to get your help in finding more of the underreported stories surrounding sexual assault. Of course, we have our noses to the ground, but we also know that discovering some of the most important stories can mean leveraging every important tool.
Using the submission box below or the #TrackingAssault hashtag on social media, tell us any of the following:
- Your own story about sexual violence
- Communities and individuals grappling with assault that you think the media isn't covering, but should
- Patterns in the way sexual violence happens in America that may be overlooked
- A survivor or advocate who has inspired you
- What's working in efforts to prevent sexual violence
Every week, we'll share what we're learning from it, both on air and online.