Sexual abuse or violence, of any kind, has proven a hard topic to understand. Its portrayal in the media, whether real or fictional, has sometimes meant that its significance and effects – not only on the people who have experienced it firsthand, but on the general public – has come to mean different things to different people. We all follow different sources of information, but it’s fairly safe to say that awareness of sexual consent in educational institutions is severely lacking, and has meant that acts of abuse can take place because both parties haven’t been equipped with basic knowledge. It’s as simple as this: no means no.
This week marks Sexual Abuse and Violence Awareness Week, so – in honor of anyone who has ever been a victim of or effected by sexual assault – here a five ways that you can spread awareness of the sexual abuse affecting people of all ages, genders, sexualities and ethnicities every single day.
These charities, whether in the UK or elsewhere around the world, sometimes can find themselves pushed to the wayside due to the fact that some people either don’t understand, or want to believe in the reality, of what these charities fight for and protect. They work tirelessly to promote awareness of all forms of sexual abuse, and most particularly to break the gender stereotypes of such a thing happening only to women. They provide protection, and a safe place for the victims of abuse, and your help could mean a lot towards furthering their mission of protecting more people.
2. Educate yourself
In most cases, the fact that sexual abuse isn’t a main topic of discussion is because people don’t know enough about it to even start comprehending or broaching the subject. To find out more about sexual abuse of any kind is so important in our current social and political climate, because education is the best way to combat misinformed hatred.
Find out about the charities mentioned previously, and read the NHS’s guide to spotting the signs and their list of helpful organisations. Pay attention to current cases and debates through news channels, social media and any post tagged with this year’s Sexual Abuse Awareness Week hashtag, #ItsNotOk. Stay in the loop, and make sure the people around you are informed to the same level.
The first step in spreading knowledge about a certain topic, particularly a strong topic like this one, is to go about it yourself. By learning more about the far-reaching effects of sexual abuse, and even certain solutions, you will be able to not only potentially raise awareness about the topic, but also help others understand and fight for its victims too.
3. Organise a protest or discussion
The recent Women’s Marches around the world are clear demonstrations of what people can do when they care enough about something that needs and deserves to be heard – or yelled as the case may be. Why not organise something in the same vein yourself? Of course, the number of people you can expect would be lesser than the aforementioned marches, but you could reach so many more people. If a protest doesn’t sound feasible or relevant for your local area, why not coordinate a sexual abuse awareness talk with your university?
4. Participate in an event organised for Sexual Abuse and Violence Awareness Week
This is only the second year this particular awareness week is being put in place, and the events planned are therefore streadily growing in number. This year, along with the help of many local organizations nationwide, the events will be focused on victim empowerment, both within themselves and the power they can find over the perpetrators of the abuse inflicted upon them. You can check out the list of events happening in the UK here, and if there aren’t any near you then add these banners across your social media accounts. Even in the smallest ways, you are helping these organizations spread their message of support.
5. Support victims unconditionally
In this day and age, support for any and all victims that have suffered – or are still suffering – from any form of sexual abuse, can come from many different places. Even if you don’t know anyone personally who has suffered in this way, there is always someone out there who could use someone to talk to. This doesn’t mean you have to talk to them personally, it can be as simple as pointing them towards an organisation offering confidential help. Always be willing to put yourself in their shoes, because maybe they don’t have anyone to listen to them, or understand the effects the abuse has on them.
There are many more ways you can help spread awareness of sexual abuse and violence: help put a stop to victim blaming, advocate awareness and empowerment, and make sure your university has a clear network of support systems should an incident occur. It’s so important for victims to realise that they are not alone in their suffering, and that they can build strength from the end of their pain.
Here’s a list of contact details should you be on campus and need immediate help, a link to the new “Tell Me” service for confidential support, and the FXU Student Support Services page if you’re unsure who to contact.