April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), and this year’s theme from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (www.nsvrc.org) is Prevention is Possible. Our aim during this campaign is to explore what sexual violence is, why it exists in our society, how to get involved in prevention efforts, and how sexual violence relates to human trafficking.
The History of SAAM
In the late 1970s, women in England marched in “Take Back the Night” protests against the violence they suffered as they walked the streets at night. The first Take Back the Night events in the U.S. were held in San Francisco and NYC in 1978. By the 1990s, advocates had established sexual violence awareness weeks in April and began pushing for a national month. On April 1st, 2001, the U.S. observed its first National Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
What is sexual violence/why does it exist?
According to the CDC, “Sexual violence is any sexual activity where consent is not freely given. This includes completed or attempted sex acts that are against the victim’s will or involve a victim who is unable to consent.” <http://www.cdc.gov/features/sexualviolence/>
(Check out our previous blogs to learn more about the societal factors that encourage sexual violence, like toxic masculinity and hypersexualization)
What can you do to help?
SAAM 2016’s theme is Prevention is Possible.
Prevention is everyone’s responsibility, but what is prevention? “Prevention aims to stop sexual violence before it has a chance to happen. It is possible to create communities where everyone is treated with respect and equality. This can be done by promoting safe behaviors, thoughtful policies, and healthy relationships.” (NSVRC) Prevention strategies target the social norms that create an environment for sexual violence and oppression. Open communication about and efforts to promote safety, respect, and equality, are key in reducing the risk of sexual violence.
The NSVRC offers the following suggestions:
- Intervene to stop problematic and disrespectful behavior
- Promote and model healthy attitudes, behaviors, and relationships
- Believe survivors and assist them in finding resources
Why does an anti-trafficking organization care?
For very obvious reasons, we care about the health and well-being of all people. Prevention of sexual violence is key to the prevention of human trafficking. Many trafficking victims previously suffered sexual violence before being forced into the trafficking trade.
Sexual violence makes the buying and selling of people for their bodies that much easier by degrading and dehumanizing the victim. Sexual violence runs rampant in our culture and is often seen as something to joke about or to ignore rather than the danger it truly is. We believe that if we all work together, prevention is possible!
If you are or someone you know is a victim of sexual violence, contact the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network: 1-800-656-HOPE.
Writing for Freedom,