Blog & Articles

Sexual Assault Awareness Month By Kim Champion PhD.

As I write this, Sexual Assault Awareness Month (April) is coming to an end. With the recent advances in mental health awareness, I have become curious about sexual assault awareness. Is it keeping pace? So, I set about taking a poll, “Hey – did you know this month is Sexual Assault Awareness Month?” Not one person I have questioned was aware of it. I’m not convinced the designated month is having its desired impact.
We as a society definitely talk about child abuse, sexual assault, and sexual harassment far more than we used to, but we still have a long way to go. While mental health issues like anxiety and depression are beginning to lose their stigma, I’m not sure I can say the same for sexual assault survivors. Some of the obvious versions of mistakes we previously used as a society have improved (like telling a victim that they “wanted it” or “asked for it” because of how they dressed or acted (although this does still happen at times). But more subtle forms of victim blaming continue undaunted. It usually occurs because no one likes to discuss or face this topic head-on. We minimize reality and try to shut down the conversation with its unpleasant emotions. It’s easier to silence the victim by insisting you can’t imagine the other person doing such a thing or implying the victim should have done something differently. If you ever feel your feelings are being shut down or minimized when looking for help or support, trust your instincts, remove yourself from the interaction, and find someone safe to talk to.
You and I can help change things:
1. Believe people when they tell you they have been sexually assaulted or harassed.
2. Know what resources are in your community for help.
3. Challenge yourself to talk about the realities and horror of sexual assault when it comes up – help people to be able to say the words and acknowledge the realities of it in our world.
4. Treat people with dignity and respect. That includes honoring their experiences and feelings even if you don’t like the topic.
5. Talk about your own experiences with sexual assault or harassment with trusted people.
Let’s make an effort to move awareness to the next level!

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