Three Ways To Combat Sexual Assaults
Awareness months serve a great purpose. They are a crucial reminder that there is a cause that needs attention, and in the case of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a cause that needs prevention.
Each year, Sexual Assault Awareness Month lies during April, and if you’re like us, you find that April typically goes by in a blur and this year was no different- the weather finally turns from cold to bearable and before you know it, school’s out and you’re lying on a beach during mid July.
We cannot forget, though, why Sexual Assault Awareness was important during the month of April and why it is also important for every other month of the year as well. In the United States, someone is sexually assaulted approximately every 92 seconds. That is the equivalent of about 321,500 victims each year. Let that sink in.
While young women are at a higher risk of sexual violence, it can happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation or race. With statistics like that, it’s almost guaranteed that we all know someone in our own lives that has been affected. It’s time for us to put our foot down. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr.,
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
We must not be silent. We must work together to focus on prevention and ensure that all sexual assault survivors have a voice and are heard.
Here are three ways that you can get involved and combat sexual assaults at all times of the year:
- Speaking Out
During the month of April, many Twitter and Instagram users utilized the #SAAM hashtag to get their message of sexual assault awareness and prevention out to their followers and other users. Just because April is now over doesn’t mean that we should stop speaking out.
If you’re overwhelmed by the thought of how to even start getting involved with sexual assault prevention, you can begin by signing one of the online pledges such as the one by ItsOnUs. By signing this pledge, you are committing to help create a culture of consent, bystander intervention and survivor support.
While pledges are a great place to start, actions are even better! It is crucial to have open and honest conversations with both the men and women in your life. A Call To Men has started a great campaign that aims to educate men all over the world on how to reach a healthy, respectful manhood and also how to prevent violence, sexual assault and harassment against women. You can use their tips and resources as guides when you are having these conversations with your sons or male friends.
- Supporting Survivors
Like we stated earlier, the likelihood that you know someone in your life already or will eventually know someone that has been affected by sexual assault is extremely high. So, what do you do and how do you support them when that happens?
Believe it or not, there are do’s and don’ts for talking with someone who has been sexually assaulted. Even if you are trying your best to show how much you care, there are things you should avoid saying and doing. We love RAINN’s list of recommended phrases and tips for talking with survivors of sexual assault. It is important to note that every circumstance is different, but in general you should always avoid judgment and have resources on hand that you can recommend.
If you don’t know anyone in your life that has been a victim of sexual assault but want to find ways to support other survivors, you can always volunteer at a rape crisis center or any other organization that serves groups of people who are most often impacted by it.
Some of these groups include students, LGBTQ youth and those with disabilities. Even just donating to an organization of your choice is a great way to help out. Check out this list of organizations on the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
- Staying Educated
We can’t do either of the steps above without being educated about the problem at hand! This means educating both yourself and those around you. You can start by learning the facts and statistics behind sexual assault. This will help you get an idea of what groups of people are most at risk, where sexual assaults are more likely to occur and what times of the year are recognized as most dangerous for different age groups.
For example, the time between August and November is referred to as the “Red Zone” on college campuses, as more than 50% of sexual assaults occur during this time. Knowing the facts will help you protect yourself and others.
It is also important to be educated on the warning signs of sexual assaults so you can recognize it in family members or friends. It’s not always obvious even when someone you care about has been affected. RAINN has pages on their site devoted to the warning signs of sexual violence for college age adults, teens and young children. If you know the signs, you can act more quickly and get these individuals the help and resources that they need.