At Home with UAEX
Learn from the best Extension Educators on being at home with UAEX!
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month
by Original Post by Heather Wingo | Adapted for blog by Katie Cullum
Sexual violence is a significant problem in the United States that can have a profound impact on lifelong health, opportunity, and well-being. Sexual violence is sexual activity when consent is not obtained or freely given. Anyone can experience or perpetrate sexual violence. The perpetrator of sexual violence is usually someone the victim knows, such as a friend, current or former intimate partner, coworker, neighbor, or family member.
How big is the problem?
Sexual violence is common. More than 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced sexual violence involving physical contact during their lifetimes.
Sexual violence starts early. One in 3 female rape victims experienced it for the first time between 11 – 17 years old and 1 in 8 reported that it occurred before age 10. Nearly 1 in 4 male rape victims experienced it for the first time between 11 – 17 years old and about 1 in 4 reported that it occurred before age 10.
Sexual violence is costly. Recent estimates put the lifetime cost of rape at $122,461 per victim, including medical cost, lost productivity, criminal justice activities, and other costs.
How can we prevent sexual violence?
1) Promote Social Norms that Protect Against Violence
- Bystander approaches
- Mobilizing men and boys as allies
2) Teach Skills to Prevent Sexual Violence
- Social-emotional learning
- Teach healthy, safe dating and intimate relationship skills to teens
- Promoting healthy sexuality
- Empowerment based training
3) Provide Opportunities to Empower and Support Girls and Women
- Strengthening economic supports for women and families
- Strengthening leadership and opportunities for girls
4) Create Protective Environments
- Improving safety and monitoring in schools
- Establishing and consistently applying workplace policies
- Addressing community-level risks through environmental approaches
5) Support Victims/Survivors to Lesson Harms
- Victim-centered services
- Treatment for victims of SV
- Treatment for at-risk children and families to prevent problem behavior including sex offending
May people are working to erase the silence and shame that keep sexual violence hidden and are working in their communities to create positive social norms and policies that promote equity and safety. You don’t have to work in the field of sexual assault prevention to make a difference. We can all prevent sexual violence by modeling and promoting healthy and positive relationships that are based on respect, safety, and equality.
We all have the ability to positively influence others. You can help the people you care about question their harmful beliefs by speaking up if a friend makes joke or comments about sexual assault or modeling consent with friends and family. Takin action in some way, shape, or form helps to change the thoughts and behaviors of a community.
Ways to Support Survivors Online During Sexual Assault Awareness Month
1.) Reach out during this critical time – survivors of trauma may feel unexpectedly triggered by the ways their daily lives may have been impacted during the pandemic. Surrounded by tragic news and the uncertainty of this time, many are feeling helpless and afraid. A support system is critical as trauma triggers amplify feelings of isolation and lack of control. Send a text message through social media to ask how they are doing. Let them know you are there and available to listen – even if it’s not in person. These small steps foster a sense of connection and serve as an important reminder that they are not alone.
2.) Share self-care reminders and support – no one is immune from the mental health impacts of this crisis. For those with a history of anxiety, depression, PTSD, disordered eating, or other mental health needs, this time is all the more challenging. If a survivor in your life is looking for resources and support beyond what you can provide, you can encourage them to reach out for help online. Now more than ever, it’s also important for survivors to find self-care activities that work for them.
3.) Share messages of support in physical and digital spaces – there are lots of ways you can show your support for survivors that are social-distancing friendly. Decorate the windows of your organization or home with teal ribbons and messages of support. Practice self-care and create your own unique “I Believe Survivors” poster. Online you can help show your support for survivors by turning your social spaces teal with gifs, Instagram stickers, graphics, videos, or teal ribbon backgrounds for zoom calls.
4.) Donate to local rape crisis centers – According to a survey of local programs by the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, 40% of programs have seen an increase in demand for services since the onset of COVID-19. Many programs also need equipment and platforms to shift to remote work. Find you local rape crisis center and consider donating or even hosting an online fundraiser to support their work.
5.) Share hope (and hardship) – The survivors in our lives need hope right now, but they also need us to recognize how hard this situation is and the ways they may be struggling. Survivors also need us to see their struggle, to see and acknowledge the challenges and negative emotions they are facing, to see the load they are carrying, not with the goal of taking it away, but to remind them of their strength and resilience.
We Can Step in When We See Harmful Behaviors Online
When all of us see our role in keeping others safe online by stepping in when we see harmful content or comments, we can build an environment where this type of content cannot thrive.
When we observe harmful behaviors online, each of us can step in by:
- Educating ourselves about the impact of victim blaming and rape jokes.
- Reporting inappropriate content on social media in order to have it flagged or removed.
- Speaking out when we see harmful comments. While you might not change the mind of the person who left the comment, others will see that not everyone agrees with them. You can say something like, “Rape is never funny, and these comments are harming the survivors in your life who have to see them.”
- Showing support to victims of online harassment. You can check in with the person who may have been impacted by the comments. Remind anyone experiencing direct offensive comments that they did nothing wrong and the behavior towards them is unacceptable.
- Supporting younger online users to come forward to trusted adults when it feels safe. Remind them that they have a right to not be subjected to these comments or offensive humor.
- Deleting content from forums when you have a role as an admin. You could even volunteer to moderate certain online spaces to prevent it from happening in the future.
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1 (800) 656-4673
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, February 5). Preventing Sexual Violence. Violence Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/sexualviolence/fastfact.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, February 5). Sexual Violence. Violence Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/sexualviolence/index.html
National Sexual Violence Resource Center. (2021, April 23). Taking Sexual Assault Seriously Online and Offline. NSVRC Blogs. Retrieved from https://www.nsvrc.org/blogs/taking-sexual-assault-seriously-online-and-offline
Palumbo, L. (2020, April 13). 6 Ways You Can Support Survivors Online During Sexual Assault Awareness Month. NSVRC Blogs. Retrieved from https://www.nsvrc.org/blogs/6-ways-you-can-support-survivors-online-during-sexual-assault-awareness-month