April is National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. I would like to open a discussion about how to prevent these life-shattering events and how to best assist survivors.
“Violence against women is not a women’s issue alone. It’s a man’s issue as well… So to all of the guys out there—you have to step up. That’s how we can change the culture on campus and around the country to one that understands no means no.” – Vice President Biden
The fact is that a conservative estimate of 20% of all women and 2% of men either have been, or will be, the victim of a sexual assault during their lifetime. It is imperative that we recognize the attitudes that contribute to this number, what we can do to change these attitudes, and how we can best support survivors when they have the courage to come forward and seek justice and, ultimately, some sense of peace.
Itsonus.org offers a great resource to open a dialogue about sexual assault. In addition to informational videos by advocates, both grassroots and celebrity, the site offers a refreshingly approachable strategy:
RECOGNIZE that non-consensual sex is sexual assault
IDENTIFY situations in which sexual assault may occur
INTERVENE in situations where consent has not or cannot be given
CREATE an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.
If you are, or someone you know is, a victim of sexual violence:
- Contact the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE. Help is free, confidential, and available 24/7. Get information at RAINN
- Contact your local emergency services at 9-1-1
SARA (the Sexual Assault Resource Agency) provides support and resources for Charlottesville and residents of surrounding counties who have experienced any kind of sexual assault including rape, adult sexual assault, child sexual assault, sexual molestation, incest, trafficking, stalking, sexual harassment or unwanted touching. SARA offers survivor services, as well as multiple volunteer, intervention, and outreach opportunities.
I encourage you to seek help when needed and help spread the message that sexual assault will not be tolerated and that survivors will be heard and justice pursued.
“Perhaps most important, we need to keep saying to anyone out there who has ever been assaulted: you are not alone. We have your back. I’ve got your back.” President Barack Obama, January 22, 2014.
Please share your experiences of strength and hope, as well as support services and volunteer opportunities to help end sexual assault.