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Santa Monica Joins in Dedication of April for Awareness and Prevention of Sexual Assault  

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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

March 30, 2017 -- It is a crime authorities say is declining significantly, but is also widely under-reported and far too often leaves perpetrators on the streets and victims long traumatized.

In April, advocates who work on behalf of those who’ve experienced sexual assault will teach awareness and the tools needed for prevention during National Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

“More needs to be done,” said Cassandra Weller, as she spreads the word about a program offering hands-on training to women of all ages to fight-off attackers -- but also on how to stay safe before an assault can occur.

“This realistic training could save a life,” she said of the free “Women’s Empowerment seminars” being held at the Krav Maga Worldwide training center in West Los Angeles on Sunday, April 17.

The free training is one of several area events that include offerings at Santa Monica College that range from a workshop for a “call for a cultural shift and community action” to a forum for survivors to express themselves and a look at new, tougher sexual assault laws.

“California and Federal laws are changing the way we think about sexual assault and violence,” the Santa Monica Commission on the Status of Women notes in its Facebook page. “No means no is no longer enough."

California adopted a new law in 2014 that sharpened the definition of sexual consent to require a “affirmative, unambiguous and conscious decision" by each party for sexual activity on college campuses.

The law also requires preventative education during student orientation, more access to counseling and better-trained adjudication panels.

SB 967, or “yes means yes,” came in the wake of forced-sex scandals on college campuses and a survey that found that nearly one in four female students said they had experienced unwanted sexual contact. The assaults were carried out by force or threat of force, or while the victim was intoxicated.

Law enforcement officials and others note reports of sexual assault have declined steadily over the last few decades, although it is unclear whether the statistics reflect a real drop in the crime or under-reporting of it.

According to the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), the national rate of sexual assault and rape has dropped 63 percent since 1993, to 1.6 per 1000 in 2015. Still, only six of every 1,000 rapists end up in prison, the group said.

RAINN estimates one American is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds, and that every eight minutes, one victim is a child.

As of 1998, an estimated 17.7 million American women had been victims of attempted or completed rape, according to RAINN.

About three percent of American men -- or 1 in 33 -- have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime, the group says.

In Santa Monica, 89 "sex offenses" -- which include rape and sexual assault -- were reported in 2016, down from 99 the previous year, according to Santa Monica Police Department data. Of those, 40 rapes were reported in 2016 and 42 the previous year.

Since 2006, when sex offenses peaked with 121 reports, there have been 920 sex offenses reported in Santa Monica, according to police department data.

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