This April marks Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), the goal of which is to create conversations and understanding about sexual violence, as well as to educate communities on how to prevent it.
This year’s theme, Embrace Your Voice, is especially focused on encouraging people to use their words to promote safety, respect and equality, and to stop sexual violence before it happens. Sexual violence is a broad term and can include rape, intimate partner violence, child sexual abuse, human trafficking, sexual harassment, unwanted sexual contact, and more. Unfortunately, one in two women and one in five men have experienced sexual violence other than rape at some point in their lifetime.
SAAM asks you to raise your voice to support survivors, take a stand against victim blaming, correct harmful misconceptions and, most importantly, practice healthy communication with children. You can start the conversation with your kids by talking about what consent is, and making it clear that their body belongs to them. Let them know that consent means giving someone a choice about touch or action and respecting the answer the other person gives.
It’s important for all of us to remember that everyone has different boundaries, from a hug to a handshake, and that it’s even important to get someone’s permission to post a photo of them on social media. Our words and behaviors shape the world around us, so we want to be sure to support victims of sexual violence because understanding and belief helps victims feel safe.
Creating a cultural environment that is sensitive to victims is essential. Sexual assault often goes unreported because people are ashamed, or are scared of not being believed, ashamed or fear retaliation. Understanding goes a long way. Never forget that it doesn’t matter what someone was wearing, how they were acting, or their relationship to the offender.
For more information, please visit the Sexual Assault Awareness Month website at https://www.nsvrc.org/saam.
The National Sexual Assault Hotline is free, confidential and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at (800) 656-HOPE.