The Latest – Apr 2016 Edition


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April is just bursting with events and campaigns to participate in as we nationally recognize this month as Sexual Assault Awareness Month and National Child Abuse Prevention Month – important to the further prevention and protection of women, men and children who could be or are exploited through labor and/or sex trafficking.

There is no doubt that technology is great, especially when it’s working well and helping us become more efficient in our daily lives. But as technology grows more and more “intelligent,” it can sometimes backfire and let us down.

If you are an iPhone, Samsung, Android or Microsoft user and a fan of their digital personal assistants – Siri, S Voice, Google Now or Cortana, respectively, were you aware that your digital PA would be unable to help you if you told them you were abused or beaten up by your spouse?

Well, these were part of the findings of a study that came out in March from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that described the responses of these “widely used conversational agents related to questions of mental health, interpersonal violence and physical health.”

Another significant outcome of the study was that Cortana, Microsoft Windows 10 personal assistant, was the only conversational agent that initially responded with the phone number of a sexual health hotline when told “I was raped.”

Apple immediately caught wind of this and swiftly responded teaming up with RAINN, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, to remedy Siri’s programming to appropriately respond when told “I was raped,” by “softening the language” and directing the user to the National Sexual Assault Hotline – a definite notable improvement from the former response of “I don’t understand or I don’t know what you mean.”

The overall conclusion of the study recommended that if these digital PAs have the job to respond “effectively and fully” to health concerns when asked, then their performances on all 4 agents will have to “substantially improve.” [Source: 1 April 2016, attn: article: http://www.attn.com/stories/6985/what-happens-when-you-tell-siri-youve-been-raped]

This conclusion is important because we are becoming more and more reliant on technology to help us out in difficult situations, in this case, situations like sexual violence or abuse, which affects people of all genders, ages, races, religions, incomes, professions, and ethnicities.

In fact, recent statistics show that:

  • Nearly 1 in 5 women in America have experienced rape or attempted rape some time in their lives (Black et al., 2011).
  • And 1 in 71 men in America have experienced rape or attempted rape (Black et al., 2011).
  • Victims of sexual violence other than rape at some point in their life happened to 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men (Black et al., 2011).

Often times, victims know the person who sexually assaulted them and were more likely to occur at or near the victim’s home:

  • Nearly 3 out of 4 adolescents (74%) who have been sexually assaulted were victimized by someone they knew well. One-fifth (21.1%) were committed by a family member (Kilpatrick, Saunders, & Smith, 2003).
  • From 2005-10, about 55% of rape or sexual assault victimizations occurred at or near the victim’s home, and another 12% occurred at or near the home of a friend, relative or acquaintance (Planty, Langton, Krebs, Berzofsky, & Smiley-McDonald, 2013).

Sadly, these abuses have serious repercussions wreaking havoc not only in the lives of those who adversely suffered from the abuse, but also in the lives of their family members, their community and society as a whole.

The trauma that a child may suffer from during childhood, whether it’s physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, acts like an anchor in their life that either perpetuates further abuse and victimization, such as becoming prey to human trafficking or enables them to become perpetrators of such violence and/or abuse, for example, becoming a pimp.

Painfully, it is our children, the most vulnerable and innocent members of our community, who are subjected to detrimental maltreatment and neglect.

  • More than one-quarter (27.4%) of victims of maltreatment/neglect were younger than 3 years old in America.
  • The highest rate of vicitmization were infants less than a year old.
  • Three-quarters (75%) of victims were neglected, 17% were physically abused, and 8.3% were sexually abused.

Source: Child Maltreatment Report 2014. Retrieved from the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families Children’s Bureau: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/resource/child-maltreatment-2014.

Thus, prevention is key and most definitely possible when we all contribute and work together! Creating and sustaining an environment in our community where we support our families enables us to generate “the village” where we can raise a future generation of leaders and contributors for a stronger and brighter future.

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*References: 
Black, M. C., Basile, K. C., Breiding, M. J., Smith, S. G., Walters, M. L., Merrick, M. T., Chen, J., & Stevens, M. R. (2011). National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010 summary report. Retrieved from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/ violenceprevention/pdf/nisvs_ report2010-a.pdf  

Kilpatrick, D. G., Saunders, B. E., & Smith, D. W. (2003). Youth victimization: Prevalence and implications (NIJ Research Brief NCJ 194972). Retrieved from the National Criminal Justice Reference Service: https://www.ncjrs.gov/ pdffiles1/nij/194972.pdf

Planty, M., Langton, L., Krebs, C., Berzofsky, M., & Smiley- McDonald, H. (2013). Female victims of sexual violence, 1994-2010 (NCJ 240655). Retrieved from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics: http://www.bjs.gov/content/ pub/pdf/fvsv9410.pdf

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