1. Read about it.
There are innumerable resources available to educate people on issues related to sexual violence: blogs like this one, books, journal articles, websites, etc. The first book I always recommend for people to read – whether you are a survivor of sexual abuse, a secondary victim, or someone wanting to become better informed – is Rid of My Disgrace by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb. If you’ve read enough of my blog posts, you know that their book and articles on the topic of sexual abuse and sex trafficking appear routinely. The Holcombs are experienced in counseling survivors of abuse and their insight into the healing process is invaluable.
Plus, for this week only (today – 6 April), the Rid of My Disgrace e-book is only $0.99 in the US (typically $12.99 in US, £9.45 in UK)! You can also read 5 chapters from the book -including two survivor stories- for FREE anytime, via the link below.
2. Write about it.
Do you have a blog? Facebook? Twitter? Is there a current events column in your school newspaper? Do you have a newsletter? Do you write for a magazine? Could you write a letter to a government official, asking them to use their power to better protect victims of rape? There are now so many ways to communicate to a broad audience. Spreading the word about sexual assault has never been simpler.
This year, SAAM is focusing specifically on child sexual abuse. Use April as an excellent opportunity to spread the word on child abuse, its effects, and ways children can be protected against assault. Talk to your own kids about safety concerns. Educate yourself so that you can educate others!
3. Wear it.
Each year, in observance of Sexual Assault Awareness & Prevention Month, SafePlace asks businesses, organizations and individuals to wear denim to support survivors and raise awareness. To learn more about how you can become involved in this event, simply access the link below.
4. Support Survivors.
Statistically, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will be sexually abused during their lifetime. In some areas of the world, that figure is even higher.
In other words, it is almost guaranteed that you know several survivors.
There are so many ways to support the men, women, and children who have been sexually assaulted (you can search the Contacts page for organizations in your area).
One example of a campaign specific to SAAM 2013 is the Speak 4 RAINN Campaign: “In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness & Prevention Month, author Laurie Halse Anderson has joined forces with RAINN to create #Speak4RAINN, a campaign to raise funds and connect survivors with the help they deserve. You can get involved this April by donating $10 to #Speak4RAINN, which will help one survivor through RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline (1.800.656.HOPE). Once you donate, Macmillan, publisher of Speak, will match your contribution dollar-for-dollar.”
Laurie Halse Anderson’s book Speak was published in 1999 and has become a powerful speaking piece for sexual assault awareness. It was a National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature that same year. One 2011 book description reads:
“Speak up for yourself–we want to know what you have to say.” From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless, outcast, because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. As time passes, she becomes increasingly isolated and practically stops talking altogether. Only her art class offers any solace, and it is through her work on an art project that she is finally able to face what really happened at that terrible party: she was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. Her healing process has just begun when she has another violent encounter with him. But this time Melinda fights back, refuses to be silent, and thereby achieves a measure of vindication. In Laurie Halse Anderson’s powerful novel, an utterly believable heroine with a bitterly ironic voice delivers a blow to the hypocritical world of high school. She speaks for many a disenfranchised teenager while demonstrating the importance of speaking up for oneself.
ceop.police.uk/ (child exploitation and online protection)
domesticviolenceinfor.ca (for women, teens, and children)
1in6.org (male survivors)
nwnetwork.org (specifically supporting GLBT survivors)
broken-rainbow.org.uk (GLBT survivors)
5. Start Local.
Look for ways to encourage survivors and raise awareness within your own community! Find a crisis prevention center or rape response program, contact the YMCA/YWCA or Red Cross, look for a sexual violence prevention program on campus, host a benefit, or bring a national or international campaign to your city. This month in particular, many support groups and crisis centers will be having open houses or similar events to raise awareness and support the survivors in their community.
6. Speak out.
You may have suffered from sexual violence. If the time feels right, share your story. Use your voice, even anonymously, to dispel rape myths and battle rape culture. Personal testimonies are powerful because they remind each of us that we are not alone, that the pain of abuse is not limited to just one person.
If you are a survivor and feel you lack a support system, seek one out. Confide in a counselor or close family member. Look for a local support group where you can meet and heal alongside other people who have been through similar trauma. Start a journal to get your thoughts out on paper. Add something to your daily routine that will improve your overall health.
Maybe you have a close relative or friend who has been victimized through sexual violence. Let them know how much you love them, admire their courage, and value their friendship. If a painful anniversary is coming up, send a brief note to let them know that you’re thinking of them; remind them they have a support system.
Finally, if you have a family member or friend whom you believe to be in an abusive situation or who has been a victim of a sexual crime such as rape, consider finding a safe, appropriate opportunity to graciously ask them about it, as a way to help them find help. If you yourself are in danger of any type of abuse or have been victimized through sexual violence, talk to someone you trust or contact a helpline (list available under Contacts). If you are in immediate danger, call emergency services.