News | May 4, 2021

‘Lunch and learn’ session discusses importance of protecting yourself, family from sexual assault

By Nancy Benecki DLA Troop Support

Every 73 seconds, a person in America is sexually assaulted, and every nine minutes, that person is a child. Only five out of every 1,000 perpetrators or offenders will go to prison.

These facts were among many sexual assault statistics presented by Teresa White-Walston during the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support’s lunch and learn session, April 28, in observance of International Denim Day.

White-Walston is the Director of Education Services for the Women Organized Against Rape/Philadelphia Center Against Sexual Violence. The theme of her discussion was “The Role of Prevention – What You Can Do.”

One of the biggest challenges in addressing sexual assault, she said, is while many people have experienced it, often they don’t speak about it or wait for years to seek help. WOAR offers assistance to survivors, no matter when the assault occurred, she said.

“We don’t look at people as victims at WOAR, we look at them as survivors,” White-Walston said. “Our mission is to help people overcome those issues that have plagued their lives and move on so that they are survivors and not continuing to feel as if they are victims.”

Citing statistics from the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, survivors often know their offenders, she said, with up to 88 percent of adults and 95 percent of children knowing their assailant. Nine out of every 10 rape or sexual assault victims are female, she said.

“Sexual assault is a very, very personal crime,” White-Walston said. “Once you know these statistics, it really sends a message home that it’s very important to recognize that victimization is not [being done by] a stranger.”

Sexual assaults also tend to occur in familiar settings, she said. According to RAINN, she said the locations of most sexual assaults are:

  • 55% at or near the victim’s home
  • 15% in an open public place
  • 12% at or near a relative’s home
  • 10% in an enclosed but public area, such as a parking lot or garage
  • 8% on school property

“We let our guards down at places we feel comfortable,” she said. “This is another reason why we have to talk about sexual violence prevention.”

Having solid information about the people we allow around our children and who is allowed in our homes is a good way to start preventing sexual assault, White-Walston said.

She also discussed results of the Adverse Childhood Experiences study, which examined the health and social effects of traumatic childhood experiences over the lifespan of more than 17,000 participants. Nearly 60 percent of those in the study experienced physical sexual abuse as a child, and about 25 percent experienced emotional or physical neglect, she said.

According to the study, if these traumatic experiences are not treated, the person may start to take part in risky behaviors and increase drug and alcohol use, she said. Body weight and depressive disorders can develop as well, she said.

“We have to take action because sexual assault has long-term effects on its victims,” she said. “The reason we have to talk about it is, with the statistics we’ve seen so far, the prevalence is high, so we recognize that the lives of individuals are affected throughout their lifetime if they are not capable of getting the support they need.”

Sexual assault and violence awareness can start through discussions at home, and teaching children about body safety, she said. Knowing risk factors and talking about healthy sexual behavior and consent are also important, she said.

This virtual event was the conclusion of DLA Troop Support’s month-long series of events and observations during Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. 

“Prevention of sexual violence is key – awareness is important, but in order to stop sexual violence everyone needs to understand their role in the prevention of it,” said Gina Ingrao, sexual assault response counselor. “Teresa’s presentation discussing how we can prevent sexual violence in our everyday lives through observation, open conversations, empathy, and intervening is more important than ever during a time of isolation.”

White-Walston has more than two decades of experience in victim services. She is responsible for the development and management of WOAR’s prevention services that support K-12 schools, colleges and universities, technical institutes, community agencies and professionals. She also directs WOAR’s strategies to reach victims and survivors of sexual violence who live in Philadelphia.

Sexual assault can be reported 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Employees can contact Ingrao at 267-253-8953 or the DLA SAPR Hotline at 1-800-841-0937 for resources or to make a report of sexual assault or abuse.

WOAR Philadelphia Center Against Sexual Violence also has a 24-hour hotline at 215-985-3333, which offers crisis counseling, resource referrals, and more.

For resources and more information visit the DLA SAPR webpage.