By Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center staff member
April is both Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Awareness month. Two in five women and one in five men will experience a form of sexual assault in their lifetime.
Recognizing sexual violence
An important first step to preventing sexual violence is recognizing its many forms by learning more about the dynamics of sexual violence – including sexual assault and sexual harassment. Recognize that it can happen to anyone of any gender, age, race or nationality, education level, sexual orientation, economic background, or ability. When we learn more about the dynamics of abuse and its many forms, we can start to end abuse in every community.
Talk about it
The unfortunate realty is that, statistically, almost everyone knows someone who has been impacted by sexual violence. They may be a survivor themselves or someone they know is a survivor. While it impacts us all, it’s not always something we are comfortable acknowledging and discussing. By talking more about violence, not only can we support survivors and have opportunities to share resources, but we can also discuss ways communities can come together to prevent sexual violence.
Teach and practice consent
When we start to learn about consent, we understand that it’s more than communicating a yes or a no. Consent is an active agreement for a specific act or activity that is freely given and can be changed at any time. It is ongoing communication based in respect and equality, and it doesn’t have to just be for sexual situations. By learning more about consent and normalizing asking for it in everyday situations, like asking before you give someone a hug or posting a picture of them online, we create environments where boundaries can be communicated and respected.
Be an active bystander
Being an active bystander means intervening when you hear comments or see behaviors that support sexual violence. Speak up if you hear a sexist joke or comment. Intervene or offer support in situations where violence may occur or has occurred. By speaking up and offering support, we communicate to others that behaviors and comments that support violence or lead to violence are not ok. One important way to prevent violence is to challenge and change the attitudes and norms that support it. Learn more about bystander intervention and different ways to intervene at www.righttobe.org.
Support efforts to prevent sexual violence
Support community efforts to prevent sexual violence. Advocate for consent and boundaries to be taught in schools. Learn about legislation that supports survivors and holds perpetrators accountable and let your representatives know that you support it. Donate to your local advocacy center to support survivors and community education. Post on social media or create your own community event. Every step taken to prevent sexual violence makes a difference.
This article is part of an ongoing series throughout the month of April.