April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, or SAAM. This year’s campaign focuses on prevention. As this video from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) emphasizes, individuals, businesses, and communities can take action to prevent sexual violence. Here are some facts and resources to help you and your communities prevent sexual violence:
- Definition: Sexual violence is any type of unwanted sexual contact. This can include words and actions of a sexual nature against a person’s will and without their consent. A person may use force, threats, manipulation, or coercion to commit sexual violence. Anyone can experience sexual violence, including children, teens, adults, and elders. Those who sexually abuse can be acquaintances, family members, trusted individuals, or strangers. (Definition provided by the NSVRC.)
- Consent: Consent is mutual, voluntary, clearly communicated, and can be withdrawn at any time. A sleeping person cannot give consent. A person who is mentally or physically incapacitated, due to drugs or alcohol or for any other reason, cannot give consent. An absence of injuries does not indicate consent. (See this great video comparing sexual consent to consuming tea, originally produced in the UK.)
- Victim Blaming: Victims are never at fault for sexual violence or coercion perpetrated against them. The victim’s dress and behavior are not relevant. The perpetrator is solely responsible for his or her actions.
- Stats: An estimated 32.3% of multiracial women, 27.5% of American Indian/Alaska Native women, 21.2% of non-Hispanic black women, 20.5% of non-Hispanic white women, and 13.6% of Hispanic women were raped during their lifetimes (Black et al., 2011). Approximately 19% of women will be sexually assaulted while in college (Krebs et al, 2007). Nearly 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men have experienced sexual violence victimization other than rape at some point in their lifetime (Black et al., 2011). Title IX and the Clery Act protect college students from sex-based discrimination and sexual violence: see the site KnowYourIX for more information.
- Prevention: Prevention strategies that address the root causes and social norms that allow sexual violence to exist in the first place are the most effective. This means making the connection between all forms of oppression (including racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, adultism,ageism, and others). Oppression creates a culture in which inequality thrives and violence is seen as normal. As an individual, you can: intervene to stop problematic and disrespectful behavior; promote and model healthy attitudes, behaviors, and relationships; and believe survivors and assist them in finding resources. (Information from the NSRVC.)
The NSRVC provides the following fact sheets (quoted above), along with many other helpful resources to educate people about sexual violence and its prevention: