About a year ago I had a long time friend confide in me that she had been molested as a child. As I took in the words that she said I found myself experiencing a mixture of sadness, frustration and anger as my “motherly instincts” kicked in from imagining my friend being hurt in any capacity, let alone as a child. I was at a loss for words. All I could do was listen and try to keep my face from showing all the thoughts I was processing as she continued with the original topic of our conversation, letting me know that she had already dealt with the bulk of her feelings about it now that she is an adult. As a crisis counselor I hear people share similar experiences on a daily basis but it still has not gotten any easier to take in. I have yet to become desensitized to the point of accepting the dismissive “it happens all the time” and I pray that I never do.
April 1st marks the beginning of National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The goal of SAAM is to raise awareness about sexual violence and educate communities on how to prevent it. Sexual assault is defined as any type of unwanted sexual contact including, but not limited to rape, molestation and sexual harassment. The affects of sexual assault impact not only the lives of the victims but their family, friends, communities and even society as a whole. The most commonly dismissed example that I have experienced is summed up almost perfectly in an article on MyBlackMatters.com,
“4) Everyone’s definition of a compliment differs. There are men who will tell you that you have a fat a**, claim to be confused when he is met with disapproval, and then begin to swear up and down that he was only trying to ‘compliment’ you. “Why you tripping?” There are women who do take comments like these as compliments, and that is completely fine.
However, there are also women who consider such boldness disrespectful and intrusive. I do not want any strange man to comment on my body in the middle of the street and think he is absolved from wrongdoing because he considered the crude comment to be a ‘compliment’. Secondly, many people do not understand that being spoken to by strange men on the street is almost always either a precarious or frightening situation for women, even if what they’re saying to us is ‘nice’. We just want to go about our day without being shouted to, stopped, and hissed at.”
Sexual assault in any form can happen to anyone regardless of age, race or gender.
Here are some ways you can get involved with raising awareness about the reality of sexual violence:
Add a teal ribbon to your Facebook profile picture for the month of April – CLICK HERE.
Change your social media profile picture to a teal ribbon – CLICK HERE to download the graphic.
Participate in the #30DAYSOFSAAM Instagram contest to win prizes while raising awareness. CLICK HERE to download the graphic so you can share the challenge with your friends.
For more information about sexual violence, how it affects us all and how you can help raise awareness, visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center at http://www.nsvrc.org.