Raising The Advocacy Stakes For The #MeToo Movement During Sexual Assault Awareness Month

By Brian Kent

Sexual assault is a topic that needs to be discussed, and in the current era of the #MeToo movement, we are seeing this happen. Every 98 seconds in the United States, a person is sexually assaulted. That’s a staggering statistic that brings to light just how much of a problem sexual assault really is. Sexual assault is unfortunately something that many individuals and their families are dealing with or have dealt with at some point. It is sad, traumatizing and changes a person’s life forever.

Therefore, each individual needs to do what they can to bring awareness to this topic so that we can hopefully reduce the incidences of sexual assault going forward. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) and this year’s theme was “Embrace Your Voice”. The idea is to bring new voices to this issue because our voice shapes the world around us. The way we discuss sexual assault makes a difference. You may wonder how your voice can have an impact and make a change for good. There are many ways that you, as well as communities, can get involved.

Providing Your Support
If you’ve ever been the victim of a sexual assault or have known someone who has suffered a sexual assault, then you can understand how important support through such an ordeal is. It is necessary to reflect on how you think and feel about the issue of sexual violence and consent. The goal is to create a culture of respect, safety and equality. You need to realize that your voice has power and you need to embrace it to provide support and encourage a positive change. You can take your stand against sexual violence when you:

  • Cultivate supportive relationships with those who’ve suffered sexual assault
  • Call out behaviors and attitudes towards sexual assault that are harmful
  • Challenge the societal acceptance of sexual assault and rape

When you take a stand against sexual violence, others around you will come forward to stand with you. When you Embrace Your Voice, you will pave the way for others to speak out and use their voice to bring attention to this important matter.

Communities and Businesses Can Help
Not only can individuals participate in this crucial campaign, but groups, such as communities and business, can get involved. They can do this by putting into place policies that promote safety, equality and respect. It is an unfortunate fact that sexual assault can happen at any time and anywhere. This includes the workplace. Employees should feel safe when they go to work so that they can focus on their job. However, when someone lives in fear of being sexually assaulted, fear can set in that reduces their quality of life. But, the good news is that communities and businesses can participate in Embrace Your Voice to raise awareness of the topic. Participation is possible with the following:

  • Social media is a great way to embrace and amplify your voice during April and encourage others to do the same. Use Instagram to spread the word about Sexual Assault Awareness Month. All you need to do to participate in the #30DaysofSAAM Instagram contest is to post a photograph that reflects the theme of the day.
  • The nationally recognized SAAM Day of Action provides opportunities for advocates and preventionists to encourage community engagement and kick of SAAM events that are planned throughout the entire month of April.
  • Show your support by wearing denim on Denim Day which is Wednesday, April 25. The Peace Over Violence campaign has held its Denim Day on a Wednesday in April for the past 17 years. Denim Day came to be about when an Italian Supreme Court overturned a rape conviction because the justices believed that the victim must have helped her rapist remove her jeans because they were tight, thereby implying consent. The following day, women in the Italian Parliament came to work wearing jeans, solidifying their support for the victim.
  • You can use social media, including Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr, to help challenge the societal acceptance of rape and sexual assault. Sexual assault is never justified. This year take a picture with your NO MORE sign for SAAM and post it to your social media accounts. By taking this practical step, you can help call out harmful attitudes and challenge victim blaming myths by sharing the myths you say NO MORE to.

2018 Washington SAAM Campaign
The national SAAM “Embrace Your Voice” theme is complemented by Washington’s 2018 SAAM Campaign. This campaign draws on the momentum of the action-oriented “Be The Solution” theme. It is designed to challenge rape culture norms related to :

  • Sexuality
  • Boundaries
  • Gender

The Washington Campaign has put together a series of posters featuring artwork from The Frizz Kid. Each poster brings awareness to specific topics surrounding sexual assault. The messages being conveyed are:

  • You don’t have to conform to traditional gender roles
  • You deserve to have your boundaries respected
  • Your sexuality, your rules, your body, your choices

So many sexual assaults take place because of changing gender roles and if you don’t conform to traditions, sadly, others think this gives them the right to act out negatively. We need to change this way of thinking and encourage acceptance and respect. Sexual assault can also be the result of ignoring boundaries. You should be able to set boundaries and those boundaries should be respected.

Lastly, no matter how you dress or what gender you identify with, you have the right to be respected and live without the fear of sexual violence. The Washington Campaign brings awareness to these specific topics and is a great complement to this year’s “Embrace Your Voice” campaign.

We can all use our voice this April, and beyond, to combat the problem of sexual violence. Individuals, communities and businesses can band together to bring about the change needed to end sexual violence for good.

 

 

Brian Kent is a partner at AbuseGuardian.com. He graduated with a law degree from Philadelphia’s Temple University, and served as a criminal prosecutor in the Sex Crimes Unit of Montgomery County’s District Attorney’s Office.

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