By Darian Towner, Prevention Specialist, House of Hope
When it comes to ending sexual violence, there is no better time to act than the present. With a society that seems to be screaming for change and desiring both a healthier and safer atmosphere for women, we are presented with the unique opportunity to shift the misconceptions and injustices existing today.
Nearly 1 in 5 women in the U.S. have experienced rape or attempted rape, according to the National Intimate Partner And Sexual Violence Survey. Native Americans are twice as likely to experience a rape or sexual assault compared to all races. These statistics should stop us in our tracks and cause us to think, but more than that, they should motivate us to use our voices and be agents of change.
Practical ways you can spark change right where you are right now: believe survivors, challenge victim blaming and respect boundaries. Believe a survivor, as opposed to questioning or assuming what you think might have happened. Challenge victim blaming completely and wholeheartedly. Respect boundaries set by others and decide where your own personal boundaries should exist. In other words, understand the vital concept of consent. Ensure that you understand the absence of a verbal no does not equate to a yes. Any individual has the right to change their mind at any given moment, which needs to be respected. Teach your children that their body belongs to them and also how to handle a “no” that might arise in situations.
These are simple, yet radical, changes that can dramatically decrease the numbers being reported in sexual assault statistics. These are changes we can make in our daily lives and model to children around us, and ones that can ignite a long-awaited societal change. In discussing sexual violence, it is vital to operate with the understanding that sexual violence is a broad term that can include not only rape, but also child sexual abuse, intimate partner violence, sexual exploitation, human trafficking, unwanted sexual contact, sexual harassment, exposure and voyeurism. Each is wrong and each is an intentional and disrespectful breach of a boundary.
During April, which happened to be Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we ran a series on our Facebook page called What Were You Wearing? We added to the display weekly and used the hashtag #SAAM to represent Sexual Assault Awareness Month when posting on social media, to join the national movement to end sexual violence.
As always, if you or someone you know is experiencing intimate partner violence, sexual assault or stalking and would like more information, please contact House of Hope at 405-878-4673 or visit us online at facebook.com/cpnhouseofhope.