Every 2 minutes, someone is sexually assaulted in the U.S.A. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Here are 5 quick facts to know. These are ‘must knows’- in order to create a base for understanding sexual assault as a form of oppression and a tragic problem facing our world, leaving people traumatized and hurt for generations.

1. Sexual Violence includes any unwanted contact of a “sexual” nature. It is one person doing something to someone else. It is not consensual. It includes street harassment, insults of a sexual nature, groping, grabbing body parts that bathing suits cover, rubbing oneself over the body of another person (clothed or not) without their permission, forced watching of porn or sex or the revealing of body parts (flashing), any sexual abuse/assault of children- ranging from masturbating in front of them, taking nude photos of them for sexual exploitation to touching them sexually or raping them. It includes rape or sexual assault of an adult (woman or man), selling people or minors for sex (sex trafficking or women sold into marriage) or forcing someone to perform sexual acts in any way, including for a camera. This list is not all inclusive, but gives a good overview of what is included in sexual violence.

2. Sexual violence, Rape, Sexual asault is about violence, not sex. It is about a person or people having power and control over another person. It is not about how horny the perpetrator was or how sexy the victim was or what she was wearing or how she acted. It is a maneuver of power. It is in fact used in war as a strategic tactic. Elderly people are raped, as are brand new babies- that’s not about sexy or sex- it’s about violence. Sexual violence is about power and control.

3. Patriarchy is the system under which this world lives and it encourages sexual violence. It demands men be in power over everyone, especially women, by whatever means necessary, even if that means being violent. Inequality between men and women more easily allows women to be sexually assaulted by men. The system of Patriarchy promotes sexual violence as acceptable and even necessary for maintaining control and power.

4. Sexual violence is not the fault of the victim/survivor. It isn’t because of their clothing or that they drank alcohol or because they shouldn’t have been alone with someone or on a date with them or in that part of town. Sexual violence doesn’t happen because someone dyed their hair, wore a dress, talked to a man, flirted with someone, kissed someone. In fact, you could be completely fooling around with someone and if you say No, you don’t want to have sex, the other person needs to respect that. Even if you had sex with that person the other day, if you say no now, it’s no. It doesn’t matter that you said yes before, you are saying NO now. It is not EVER the victim’s fault that they were raped.

5. Sexual violence can happen to anyone, of any socio-economic class, of any education level, of any race, of any culture, of any religion, of any age, of any gender and in any region of the world. And it can have profound psychological effects on a victim/survivor. The more support victims have around them of people who believe it wasn’t their fault and don’t set a time line for them to be better or “back to normal,” the better off they will fare in the face of trauma.

Speaking out about sexual violence, condemning it and upholding equality between men and women are ways sexual violence can end. But it can only happen with men and women saying it is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. It’s up to everyone.

Spread awareness about Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

For additional information: RAINN provides info and an online hotline and also links survivors to crisis services near to where they are, wherever they are in the  U.S.: 1-800-656-HOPE

Grrl Code: Believe women when they speak about sexual violence. Stick together with other women. Stick up for other women. Work to protect women in your daily life. Ask women if they are okay when there seems to be a problem.

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