Sexual Assault Awareness Month is coming to a close, but we should always be aware of sexual assault and harassment because it happens every day. It is important to continue to raise awareness so we can put change in effect. It is one thing to talk about it, but it is another to do something about it.
What Is Sexual Assault?
Sexual assault is any type of unwanted contact by someone else. It could also involve words that make someone feel uncomfortable. There could be threats, force or manipulation. Sexual assault can happen anywhere, anytime and to anyone of all ages face-to-face or online – often social media. The most important part of having contact with someone is consent. The simple question of consent is the necessary step for an individual to say “yes” or “no” and verbalize their level of comfort. If there is consent given, they can change their mind at any time with no questions asked. If there is no consent given, then all actions must come to an end because no one should feel uncomfortable at any time.
When sexual assault occurs, it is never the victim’s fault. Some claim that the victims were dressing and acting like they wanted the attention or they drank too much. These excuses never justify the actions of the perpetrator. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center states,
“There is a social context that surrounds sexual violence. Social norms that condone violence, use power over others, traditional constructs of masculinity, the subjugation of women, and silence about violence and abuse contribute to the occurrence of sexual violence. Oppression in all of its forms is among the root causes of sexual violence.”
For this reason, we have to continue talking about sexual assault not just within the month of April, but every month. We need to stop the social norm that allows people to think that sexual assault is okay.
Why Is It Relevant?
Sexual assault has an entire awareness month because there are more and more victims every day. Some statistics include:
“Nearly 1 in 5 women (18.3%) and 1 in 71 men (1.4%) in the United States have been raped at some time in their lives, including completed forced penetration, attempted forced penetration or alcohol/drug-facilitated completed penetration.”
The self-reported incidence of rape or sexual assault more than doubled from 1.4 victimizations per 1,000 persons age 12 or older in 2017 to 2.7 in 2018.”
Despite the increase in self-reports of rape and sexual assault, there was a decrease in reporting to police from 2017 to 2018. Forty percent (40%) of rapes and sexual assaults were reported to police in 2017, but only about 25% were reported to police in 2018.”
There was a recent incident in London involving the death of 33-year-old Sarah Everard. She was walking home and was kidnapped by a serving officer of Metropolitan Police, which shocked many and caused an uproar of social media campaigns. Women are coming out with their public sexual harassment and assault stories with the hashtags #reclaimthenight and #saraheverard to raise awareness about the steps women have to take to be safe in public places. Sarah is only one of the many victims from all over the world who have had the same unfortunate experience. In Turkey, there are women murdered daily and their perpetrators are not receiving any consequences because they end up blaming the victim to justify their actions.
How Can I Help?
Getting involved in the movement to end sexual assault and harassment is important, or else there will be no change in the future. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center provides educational seminars, videos and articles to further educate the world on this issue. Becoming educated helps you stay safe, recognize sexual assault and prevent sexual assault.
Volunteering for your community rape crisis centers, for example, to answer calls and help victims of sexual assault and harassment is a great way to become involved. Attending events that support victims or donating to groups that work publicly to address the issue is also a way to be immersed in the fight for change. Speaking out about your own story will help someone else struggling to tell someone too.
We need to stick together to keep pushing for change. Women need to feel safe in their world. We should be able to walk alone or travel alone without bringing pepper spray along. People should not use and manipulate others into doing something they don’t want to do. Support your friends, family and community because you never know what they have gone through themselves.
If you or a loved one is a victim of sexual assault, call the hotline: 800.656.HOPE to find the help you need. You can also visit https://www.rainn.org/resources for more resources.