Skip to site content

Recognizing the Importance of Sexual Assault Prevention in Indian Country

by Nicole Stahlmann, MN, RN, SANE-A, AFN-BC, FNE-A/P, Forensic Nurse Consultant, Division of Nursing Services, Indian Health Service

Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April highlights ongoing advocacy and prevention efforts, drawing attention to how widespread and far-reaching sexual violence is within our communities. Sexual assault is any act of sexual activity or contact without consent that can happen through physical force or threats of force, including rape and sexual coercion. Here are some alarming statistics:

Statistics alone do not capture the actual depth of individual and familial historical trauma and oppression, including violence, experienced by tribal communities.

Sexual assault awareness and prevention allow for the opportunities to develop concrete solutions and build a chance to understand the structural inequities that impact health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlines the prevention of sexual violence that is inclusive of creating champions or allies to promote and protect against violence; teaching and promoting healthy dating lifestyles; empowering and supporting individuals to strengthen economic well-being; creating protective environments; and providing resources that are patient-centered and trauma-informed for all individuals. Collective efforts forge a path forward to prevention, and to help regain the health and wellness of our patients, their families, and communities affected by violence.

April 4, 2023, is recognized as the Day of Action, a day to focus awareness on sexual violence prevention by wearing teal, the color of sexual violence prevention, to show dedication and support for survivors of sexual assault. April 26, 2023, is also designated as Denim Day – Wear Jeans for a Purpose.

Here are two questions to help get you thinking about sexual assault awareness and prevention efforts, as well as additional resources to help raise awareness:

  • What are your SAAM action plans and endeavors to support individuals who have experienced sexual assault and violence?
  • Have you identified and implemented SAAM prevention measures in your community?


Nicole Stahlmann, MN, RN, SANE-A, AFN-BC, FNE-A/P, Forensic Nurse Consultant, Division of Nursing Services, Indian Health Service

Nicole Stahlmann, MN, RN, SANE-A, AFN-BC, FNE-A/P, serves as the forensic nursing consultant with the IHS Division of Nursing Services. Prior to her work with IHS, she served as a forensic nursing specialist with the International Association of Forensic Nurses and was the clinical program manager for the District of Columbia Forensic Nurse Examiners. Stahlmann was an emergency department nurse and adjunct instructor, teaching both undergraduate and master prepared students at Georgetown University. She continues to practice clinically, providing care for patients who have experienced violence.