April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). This year’s theme, “Drawing Connections: Prevention Demands Equity,” calls on all individuals, communities, organizations, and institutions to change ourselves and the systems surrounding us to build equity and respect. In order to prevent sexual violence, we need to recognize the connections between various forms of oppression and the underlying causes of sexual assault. Risk factors such as poverty, lack of employment opportunities, and racism within the law enforcement or judicial systems make communities more vulnerable to acts of sexual assault.
Sexual violence is an umbrella term that includes any type of unwanted sexual contact. Forms of sexual violence include rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, or sexual abuse. It also includes a range of behaviors such as unwanted sexual contact or words, online exploitation, exposing oneself to others without consent, and nonconsensual image sharing.
Although sexual violence impacts every community and affects people of all ages, races, genders, and sexual orientations, certain groups are at higher risk. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that more than one in four non-Hispanic Black women (29%) in the United States were raped in their lifetime; more than four in five American Indian and Alaska Native women (84.3%) have experienced violence in their lifetime; one in three Hispanic women (34.8%) reported unwanted sexual contact in their lifetime; and 47% of all transgender people have been sexually assaulted at some point in their lives.
Everyone has a role to play in ending sexual assault, harassment, and abuse.
At its heart, doing the work of sexual violence prevention is a refusal to accept abuses of power; a commitment to educating yourself and others; and providing space for victims to reclaim their voice. Some ways that each of us can be involved include:
- Speak out when you see harmful comments that blame victims for what happened to them, you can respond by refocusing accountability on the perpetrator.
- If a sexual assault survivor shares his or her story with you, you can say, “I Believe You,” to help validate their experience and feelings.
- Shine a light on local support by locating your local sexual assault resource center and sharing its website URL/hotline number.
- Educate youth and adults about what consent means. Consent is the ongoing process of discussing boundaries and what you are comfortable with.
- Wear jeans on Denim Day to take a stand against victim-blaming (DenimDayInfo.org)
For All Seasons Rape Crisis Center offers certified sexual assault victim advocates, counseling, free and confidential services in English and Spanish, support in the hospital, police department, and court, and referrals to social and legal services. The For All Seasons English Hotline is 410-820-5600. The Spanish Hotline is 410-829-6143. The text line in English or Spanish is 410-829-6143. For further information and to find support for online sexual assaults, visit forallseasonsinc.org.
Source: National Sexual Violence Resource Center at https://www.nsvrc.org/saam/drawingconnections
For All Seasons provides the highest quality mental health and victim services to children, adults, and families across Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Services are offered in both English and Spanish and include therapy, psychiatry, victim advocacy, 24-hour crisis hotlines, outreach, and community education. For further information, contact For All Seasons at 410-822-1018 or visit forallseasonsinc.org.