7 Ways You Can Combat Sexual Assault

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and as college students, sexual assault is a huge problem we need to address. In their lifetime, 1 in 6 women will be raped or attempted to be raped, and collegiate women ages 18-24 are three times more likely to be raped. For men 1 in 33 are raped or attempted to be raped, and those aged 18-24 are five times more likely to be raped. We hear statistics like these often and have all probably went through a freshman bystander intervention program at least once. But this issue cannot be brushed over in a two-hour program. As individuals, we need to be working to combat sexual assault on a frequent basis. And here’s how:

1. Know what consent looks like.

Consent is not a no. Consent is not a maybe. Consent is not silence. Consent is not a reluctant yes after begging and badgering. Consent is not a yes while intoxicated. Consent can be revoked. Consent is a whole-hearted, enthusiastic yes, when someone is in the right mind. Make sure others know this, not just you.

2. Speak up.

This is probably the most important thing you can do. Like you probably learned in bystander intervention, if you’re at a party and see someone in a bad situation, speak up. But this extends past bystander intervention. If you’re on the street and hear someone make a comment that perpetuates rape culture (i.e. men can’t be raped by women, she was asking for it, it’s okay because we’re dating), speak up and let them know it’s not okay to think that way. Sexual assault begins with a mindset, and in order to change that mindset you have to call people out on it. Even if they’re “joking,” it’s not funny, and it normalizes assault.

3. Support a national campaign.

There are many organizations dedicated to preventing sexual assault such as It's On Us, run by former Vice President Joe Biden, which emphasizes the individual role we play in changing the culture revolving around sexual assault. There’s also The Clothesline Project where victims of sexual assault decorate a T-shirt and hang it on a clothesline to show visibility of the problem. Lastly, you can support Take Back the Night, which hosts a variety of awareness events and initiatives that fight all forms of sexual violence.

4. Donate to organizations that combat sexual assault.

There are many organizations that aid victims, raise awareness and work to prevent sexual assault, and they need funding to continue to do so. You can donate to any of the programs listed above or organizations such as Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, The National Sexual Violence Resource Center, The National Alliance to End Sexual Assault, and End Rape on Campus.

5. Know the resources available to survivors.

Know the ins and outs of your school’s local Title IX office, what the campus police can do for you/ others, and make sure they’re doing enough. You can also call the National Sexual Assault Hotline if you need confidential support. If you know someone who was assaulted, don’t be afraid to provide them with these resources, but also support them emotionally as a friend or loved one.

6. Do NOT victim blame.

I’m going to throw this in here, in case you thought I’d list some of the following ways to prevent sexual assault: don’t drink, dress modestly, don’t flirt with people you aren’t interested in. No matter what a person does, if they are sexually assaulted, it is never EVER their fault. Prevention starts at the perpetrator. We need to create a culture where they know it is not okay, and they cannot get away with it. Victim blaming does the opposite.

7. Reach out to your government if they aren’t doing enough.

It’s a travesty how sexual assault is treated in our country. So many people don’t seek help, and the ones that do are rarely taken seriously. To instill change, you need to reach out to the people who create the laws. Make sure your local politicians are doing everything they can to prevent sexual assault, and make sure they are passing laws that make it harder for assailants to get away with it, not easier. It starts with phone calls, emails and using your vote to voice these concerns.

 

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