April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Are you ready to help prevent sexual violence?

There’s still much need for awareness and a deeper understanding of the complex history of the anti-sexual violence movement in the United States, dating back to Sojourner Truth in 1851, and the continued interplay of racism, sexism, and human rights. Effective prevention also requires knowing our history. Watch and share this video created by the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs.

Every single day, rape crisis center advocates and volunteers support survivors with free and confidential services such as counseling and support, legal, medical and housing advocacy, food assistance and safety planning. Throughout the pandemic, these programs have continued to meet people (albeit often virtually) where they are at to help meet their current and long terms needs for stability and healing.

We also want to recognize the presidential proclamation issued by the Biden/Harris Administration in recognition of SAAM. The first sentence makes clear that this Administration understands that sexual violence is an urgent matter that requires a public health response: “Sexual assault, at its core, is a devastating abuse of power — one that affects people of every age, race, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, socioeconomic background, and religion.”

Below are three concrete steps you can take this month to make a difference:

#1: Prevention is on ALL of us

Sexual violence is preventable.  Jane Doe Inc. (JDI)’s #ReimagineManhood Campaign focuses on shifting social norms and values to foster gender equity and racial justice as an antidote to all forms of abuses of power. The most recent “5 Things with JDI” featured  Ted Bunch from “A Call To Men” and their new book, “The Book of Dares” which is great for adults and youth! Watch the episode here.

We can also prevent sexual violence by being an active bystander. When no action is taken and people remain silent or ignore the behavior, we create a false consensus that sexual violence is OK. We can make the choice to “act” whether is now or later in a private conversation. Here are some examples on how to take action.

#2: Connect with your local rape crisis center (RCC)

There are 16 rape crisis centers in Massachusetts: some are stand alone RCCs, and others are combined with domestic violence programs. These independent organizations provide direct support and services to people who experience sexual violence as well as to friends and family members.

Many RCCs are holding events throughout April. Check out Jane Doe Inc. (JDI)’s calendar which will be updated throughout the month.

Invite a RCC to make a presentation at your school or workplace, or train your staff on how to respond to disclosures of sexual violence and to create a safer work environment. You can find the list of RCCs in Massachusetts here.

#3: Online safety

Connecting online in the increasingly technology driven world of work, school, and our social lives means that harmful content and behaviors may also be present.

Check out the tool and resources on the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) website on digital consent, boundaries, safety tips, and what you can do to help create a safe and respectful experience for you, your children, your co-workers, and your friends.

Together, we can make a difference!