8 Ways to Help with Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention

sexual assault protest in indiaSexual assault, a difficult subject for many people to talk or even think about, is an unfortunate reality for the approximately 250,000 people who are sexually assaulted in the United States each year.

April is nationally recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, and April 7 is the designated Day of Action. These campaigns exist as a means to raise awareness of sexual assault in the U.S., so that people not only begin to think about sexual assault and its implications, but start doing something about it, as well.

You have the power to make a difference. Here are eight ways you can help raise sexual assault awareness and also work to prevent its occurrence in the future.

1. Educate Yourself about Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual contact that a person is coerced or forced to participate in against their will. According to the results from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey released in 2014, nearly one in five women has experienced rape or an attempted rape in her lifetime. Research also paints a grim picture for males. Studies show that one in six men experiences some form of unwanted or abusive sexual experience in his lifetime, as well.

Sexual assault impacts the lives of both men and women, and the resulting trauma often goes far beyond the event itself. People who experience sexual assault are more likely to experience posttraumatic stress, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, drug and alcohol addictions, problems with intimate relationships, and difficulty at school and/or work.

You can help raise national awareness of sexual violence simply by educating yourself and your family. There are several national organizations that provide information and resources on sexual violence. Two of the leading organizations are:

  • RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) is the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the United States. RAINN operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline 24-7, which anonymously links callers to a counselor at a rape crisis center nearest them. RAINN also offers online support, resources, and information.
  • The NSVRC (National Sexual Violence Resource Center) creates and shares resources to help prevent and respond to sexual violence in the United States and around the globe. They coordinate Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), operate an online resource library, sponsor national conferences and events, and help integrate research with community projects.

2. Volunteer

There are many ways you can personally get involved in the fight to raise awareness and prevent sexual violence in your local community.

You can volunteer at a crisis center, staff a hotline, participate in fundraising events, advocate for survivors, help raise awareness and improve safety measures on college campuses, or get creative and host your own educational or advocacy event.

3. Lobby Your Representatives

You can speak for those who do not have a voice or are not able to express it. Congress needs to hear from citizens who support legislation to improve the criminal justice system, provide support to survivors, and help prevent further violence. The RAINN Action Center has pre-written letters and tweets available to send to members of Congress asking them to support measures related to sexual assault prevention and support. You can use the RAINN hashtag #ActWithRAINN when posting about sexual violence advocacy measures this month.

4. Use Social Media

Connect with the cause and share it on social media to help increase awareness among those in your network. You can use the RAINN hashtag #ActWithRAINN to talk about the cause and connect with @RAINN01 to stay informed.

The NSVRC hosts a twitter discussion every Tuesday in April at 11 a.m. PDT. Follow the conversation or get involved through the hashtag #TweetAboutIt.

5. Learn How to Help Those Who Experience Sexual Assault

It can be difficult to know how to reach out to a loved one who has experienced sexual assault. Below are some tips to help if you are unsure of what to do:

  • Lend a compassionate, nonjudgmental ear. Many people just want to be heard. They do not necessarily need advice or comments.
  • Be patient and considerate. Don’t try to force your friend or loved one into seeking support or taking action if he or she is not yet ready for it.
  • If the person plans to seek support or medical attention, offer to be there. As simple as it may seem, your presence alone can make a significant difference.
  • If someone you know is sexually assaulted, your reaction can have an impact on his or her recovery from the trauma. Do not question what he or she was wearing or why he or she was not able to stop the assault. One of the most important things you can say to a sex abuse survivor is, “I believe you.”

6. Engage the Community

Consider reaching out to your local community to help with prevention efforts. You might talk to bar owners about the role their employees can play in prevention, seek support from faith-based or youth organizations, or encourage college faculty and staff to raise awareness and improve safety on campus.

7. Become an Advocate against Military Sexual Assault

Military sexual violence is one of the most overlooked forms of sexual assault. An estimated 19,000 service members become victims of military sexual assault each year, and at least half of those victims are men, with an estimated 38 military men being sexually assaulted every day. Unfortunately, many of these cases go unreported, as survivors rarely speak up.

You can also get involved and spread the word about prevention and support programs for military sexual violence survivors. RAINN operates a Department of Defense Safe Hotline and website for victims of military sexual assault to obtain crisis intervention, emotional support, and other related resources.

8. Donate

There are several nonprofit organizations against sexual violence that rely mostly on monetary donations from supporters to survive. Even if you cannot volunteer or take any other action, you can still help the cause by providing a donation to the organization of your choice. In addition to RAINN and NSVRC, there are several other nonprofit organizations working to prevent sexual violence and provide support, including:

  • 1 in 6: an organization that helps men who have experienced sexual abuse.
  • MCSR (Men Can Stop Rape): an organization that seeks to prevent male violence against women by redefining masculinity and male strength.
  • NAESV (National Alliance to End Sexual Violence): an organization that helps educate the policy community about federal laws and legislation that prevent and work toward ending the cycle of sexual violence in the United States.

In addition to national organizations, there are a variety of support and prevention resources available on the local level as well. Get involved in your community. If you are unsure what projects exist near you, the NSVRC provides an online directory of local organizations and projects working to eliminate sexual violence.

We hope you will join us during Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month in supporting several important organizations working toward a safer community for all. On April 7, the Day of Action, we urge you to pick out at least one item and help us create a ripple effect of positive change for those who are suffering, those who have been victimized, and for those who we hope never have to experience the trauma of sexual assault.

References:

  1. Help Someone You Care About. Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network. (RAINN). Retrieved from: https://rainn.org/get-help/help-a-loved-one
  2. Kearl, H. (April 1, 2013). 10 Ways to Mark Sexual Assault Awareness Month. American Association of University Women. (AAUW). Retrieved from: http://www.aauw.org/2013/04/01/sexual-assault-awareness-3/
  3. Penn, N. (2014). Military Sexual Assault: Male Survivors Speak Out. com. Retrieved from: http://www.gq.com/long-form/male-military-rape
  4. Prevalence and Characteristics of Sexual Violence, Stalking, and Intimate Partner Violence Victimization — National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, United States, 2011. (2014). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss6308a1.htm?s_cid=ss6308a1_e
  5. RAINN Action Center. Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network. (RAINN). Retrieved from: https://rainn.org/public-policy/rainn-action-center
  6. Resource Directory. National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC). Retrieved from: http://www.nsvrc.org/organizations?tid=8&tid_1=All
  7. SAAM Day of Action (2015). Sexual Assault Awareness Month. National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC). Retrieved from http://www.nsvrc.org/saam/current-campaign/day-of-action
  8. The 1 in 6 Statistic. 1 in 6. Retrieved from: https://1in6.org/the-1-in-6-statistic/

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  • 11 comments
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  • Willow

    Willow

    April 7th, 2015 at 10:19 AM

    Doing volunteer work with organizations that help fight sexual assaults and who promote education is a critical thing but one that is very infrequently utilized. We think that it has to be some one who has first hand knowledge about rape and assault but there are so many things that we can all do to take charge and take part and make a real change in this country’s attitudes about sex and assault and abuse in general.

  • Jan

    Jan

    April 7th, 2015 at 1:40 PM

    No matter how you choose to get involved just making that a clear choice in your life to get out there and do something for the cause is all it can take to spark that fire of creativity and participation in that many others.

  • Emotional

    Emotional

    April 7th, 2015 at 5:40 PM

    So important to get help, yet so sensitive and hard to talk about even with a great therapist. I need to try hard this week to tell her what happened and that’s inly 1 of many. Some she knows. This one is going to more detailed and uncomfortable not because of her but because it wasn’t comftorable to talk openly growing up at least for me anyways

    I’m sure it’s nothing to her as she’s more open than me and I’m very open with my son but I can still hear it’s not ok it’s private in my head

  • franklin

    franklin

    April 8th, 2015 at 10:09 AM

    We don’t ever really think about how different things are today, but after reading this I was just thinking of how much easier it is today to get the word out about events and education about social issues on social media websites. It is such an instant platform for sharing that I know that there are lots of people and organizations taking advantage of it. As they should!

  • Denise S

    Denise S

    April 8th, 2015 at 6:11 PM

    NOMORE.org and dosomething.org both have excellent resources for printing, tweeting, or adding to your facebook page. I have retweeted or posted something from NOMORE.org every day since I found out it is Sexual Assault Awareness Month #SAAM

  • olivia

    olivia

    April 9th, 2015 at 8:23 AM

    I agree that there are laws and broader things that need to be changed, but I also think that for REAL and lasting change, this needs to be something that is grass roots driven and that feels like it is being spoken for the people and by the people.
    I think that there are times where we feel very disengaged by the whole political and lawmaking process. We just don’t have the hand in that that we could in other efforts like marches and protests. I think that those are the things that show courage and involvement and tat ultimately lead to the most change in how people think and then respond to violence as a whole against others.

  • Samantha

    Samantha

    April 9th, 2015 at 3:19 PM

    This is no longer a conversation that needs to hide behind closed doors and hushed tones. It is one that has to be had and needs to be heard.

  • Bret

    Bret

    April 10th, 2015 at 1:37 PM

    I guess that I never thought about this as an issue until my own sister was raped. You look at her and how wonderful and beautiful she is and it leaves you feeling so lost because how do you them help someone who has had so much taken away from them? I was mad and angry, and only wanted revenge. But what my sister needed was to heal, and so I decided that instead of being so mad and angry, I needed to focus that energy in a much more positive way and be that shoulder for her to cry on instead. I think that it brought the two of us closer together and gave us some common goal that we had never had the chance to feel together.

  • claree

    claree

    April 13th, 2015 at 6:13 AM

    This can be a very hard thing for someone to understand, the pan and the shame that you feel as a victim. For me it has been about surrounding myself not with those with questions but with those who only have love for me and I know want the best for me as I go through my personal recovery.

  • HollyD.

    HollyD.

    April 14th, 2015 at 8:51 AM

    There are numerous ways that you can get involved on the local level. Seek out organizations that handle these things locally, volunteer your time, and even if they seem to not want your help, they could always use supplies and money.
    In things like this confidentiality concerns can be important so you may have to understand if they are a little leery of outsiders coming in. There are so many safety concerns to consider too. But don’t give up, because if this is something that interests you and compels you to get involved in, there are multiple ways that your energy and efforts can make a difference.

  • zelma

    zelma

    April 15th, 2015 at 10:26 AM

    You have to find a way to forge a bond with sexual abuse victims even if this is not something that you have experienced yourself.

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