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FirSexual Assault Awareness Month

Each April, we honor Sexual Assault Awareness Month in which we spread awareness in order to support the prevention of sexual assault, harassment, and abuse. Sexual violence is an epidemic, and it’s key that we educate in order to foster solutions and engagement throughout our communities.

What is Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault is described as any unwanted sexual behavior including a wide range of actions from flashing to coercion to rape. It is used by offenders to assert power and control over someone else… and while legal definitions vary from state to state, it affects one in three women in their lifetime. Sexual assault includes:

  • Contact with someone who cannot consent (including those affected by intellectual disabilities, those who are underage, or those who are unable to respond due to drugs, alcohol, or being asleep.)
  • Sexual contact with someone who does not consent
  • Rape
  • Attempted rape
  • Sexual coercion
  • Sexual contact with a child
  • Fondling or unwanted touching
  • Voyeurism or peeping
  • Exhibitionism
  • Sexual harassment
  • Sending someone unwanted sexts
  • Forcing someone to pose for sexual photos

What is Consent?

Consent is a clear “yes” to sexual contact or activity that is expressly given. It is key. But before you engage in any sexual activity, make sure that you have the consent of both parties. Sexual activity or contact without consent is rape.

  • Not saying no does not equal consent.
  • Being forced or manipulated does not equal consent.
  • Not being physically or mentally able to give consent does not equal consent.
  • Being under the age of consent does not equal consent.
  • Silence does not equal consent.
  • Not fighting back does not equal consent.
  • Revealing clothing does not equal consent.
  • Being in a relationship does not equal consent.

Giving your consent means that you understand what is happening, know what you want to do, and you are aware and able to say that you do and do not want to do. Consent is ongoing, meaning that you can revoke it at any time. And in this, saying “yes” to one type of sexual activity does not mean you have given consent for all types of sexual activity. Past consent does not mean that someone has future consent.

What Are the Effects of Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault can have many lifelong effects on survivors. And everyone reacts differently, yet some survivors may experience:

  • Shock and denial
  • Fear
  • Silence
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Low-self esteem
  • Isolation
  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Moodswings
  • Anger
  • Guilt and blame
  • Loss of confidence
  • Loss of trust

What to Do If I’ve Been Sexually Assaulted

If you have been sexually assaulted, remember that it is not your fault and you are not alone. Ensuring your safety is key at the moment after. Find someone that you trust or contact emergency services. Next, seek confidential help from a 24-hour helpline. Medical support is essential in the moments after. If you can and you feel comfortable, try to get to a health care professional to receive appropriate care.
Most importantly, trust yourself. If maybe a time of overwhelming emotions, but remember that it is never okay for someone to do something without your permission or consent. Trust your instincts. You are not alone, you are loved, and you are strong.

How Can I Help Someone Who Was Sexually Assaulted

If you know someone who was sexually assaulted, it’s particularly pertinent to help them find the support that they need. Listen to them if they want to talk, thank them for sharing their story, and educate yourself. Next, be an ongoing source of support by continuing to listen, letting them know you are on their side, and if necessary, standing by their side as they navigate medical appointments and tough conversations with law enforcement. And remember that they need you now more than ever.

What You Can Do To Help

This April, and always, take the pledge to end sexual assault. First, call out harmful attitudes, challenge victim-blaming and educate in order to foster a culture of respect within our communities. The first step to stopping sexual assault is making a commitment to spreading awareness! There is no place for sexual assault in our communities and together we must work to support survivors, amplify voices, and come together.