Every single day, sexual violence impacts hundreds of Americans. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and whether you are male or female, there are things you can do to protect yourself or your loved ones from sexual violence. Here's what you need to know:
Facts and Figures About Sexual Assault
According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN):
- One in five women will be raped in their lifetime.
- In eight out of ten cases, sexual assault victims know their attackers.
- More than 90 percent of college-aged victims do not report sexual assaults.
- Sexual assault affects people of all ages and genders
- Approximately 63,000 children were victims of sexual abuse between 2009-2013
What You Can Do:
If you feel that something isn't right, there are many ways you can help and not all of them have to be confrontational. Whether you're a potential victim, a bystander, or a concerned friend or family member, here are a few things you can do.
Interrupt the situation: If you feel somebody else is in danger, ask them to join you in another activity ("Hey, I want to show you something in the kitchen."); ask them directly if they need or want assistance; or enlist the help of another person or authority (like police or a security guard).
Communicate about consent: Consent is an enthusiastic "yes": nothing less will do. A participant can withdraw consent at any time, even in the middle of a sexual encounter. Never assume consent: Just because a person said yes on one occasion, or let you do one thing (like kiss them), doesn't mean you have permission to go to the next step. Learn what consent means for yourself, and help to educate your friends and partners about what it means, too.
Alcohol and sexual assault: Just because a person is intoxicated doesn't make them deserving of sexual assault. But you can protect yourself and your friends by drinking responsibly, especially when you're in the company of strangers. Never accept a drink from someone you don't know, and always have a plan to stay safe and get home if you're intoxicated.
Don't ignore your gut: If you feel uncomfortable, scared, or uncertain in a social situation, don't ignore those instincts. Exit the situation as quickly as possible, and don't worry about hurting someone's feelings.
Talk openly: If you have or work with children, talk to them early and often about appropriate touching, how to say no, and what to do if they feel they have been violated.
Be supportive: There is no "right" way for a victim to react to a sexual assault. If you are helping a friend or loved one who has experienced a sexual assault, be supportive, listen closely, and guide them to get help.
Take these steps to educate and protect both yourself and your loved ones from sexual assault.