Every April we recognize Sexual Assault Awareness Month (#SAAM) to raise public awareness about sexual violence and educate communities on how to prevent it. Sexual assault is a serious problem with wide-spread impacts. According to the CDC, nearly 1 in 5 women in America have experienced completed or attempted rape, and 1 on 67 men experience the same.
Sexual violence occurs when someone is forced or manipulated into unwanted sexual experiences including touching, fondling, viewing images and more. In fiscal year 2016/2017, Refuge House responded to 578 calls regarding some form of past or current sexual violence. Of that number, 182 were Sexual Assault Nurse Exam (SANE) calls. Once called, survivors are met by a victim advocate at an emergency room, the Refuge House SAFE Center, or at a law enforcement office. Victims have the right to receive a forensic exam to collect evidence, anonymously or not. Victims may also choose whether or not they wish to report the incident. Refuge House reports that SANE calls rise in number each year, something that should be taken very seriously in terms of local violence perpetration.
In the wake of the powerful #MeToo movement, there has been an explosion of conversation around sexual violence, and we are starting to see how many people it affects worldwide. During this Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we want to share some information with you all to think about throughout this month of awareness and tell you what you can do to help. We invite you to change cultural norms this April by using your power of social influence. Use your social media posts, car bumper space or email signatures to show your support of #SAAM. Use your actions, facial expressions and words to react in a situation that crosses your values of safety and respect. Together, we will shift the culture immediately surrounding us, turning each corner of Tallahassee safer than it was before. This April, #EmbraceYourVoice to support survivors, and end violence.
Other ways to help end sexual assault:
- Make it clear that you are not okay with sexual assault happening in your community, your school or your social group and do one thing to stop it if you see a situation where someone could be taken advantage of.
- Check in with your friend who’s in a relationship to see if everything is okay, ask the two people leaving the house party together if they know each other or call someone out if they’re being too pushy or handsy with someone else.
- If you aren’t comfortable getting involved, do something to distract the situation or ask someone else to step in.
- Don’t think that sexual assault going on in your community is “not your business.” Violence in your community IS YOUR BUSINESS. If it were you or someone you loved, wouldn’t you want someone to step in and help? If you see a high risk situation, be that person for someone else.
The solution starts with all of us. If we all do our part in our everyday lives, the problem will become smaller one action at a time.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault and needs to talk, you can find Refuge House’s 24 hour Crisis Hotline contact information here, or visit the online RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline to live chat with a counselor. These services are completely confidential. We’re here to listen, and we want to help.