Observed in April, Sexual Assault Awareness Month is an annual campaign to raise public awareness about sexual assault and educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence. Sexual violence is a broad term and includes rape, incest, child sexual abuse, intimate partner violence, sexual exploitation, human trafficking, unwanted sexual contact, sexual harassment, exposure and voyeurism. (National Sexual Violence Resource Center 2012, 2013, 2015). Sexual violence occurs when someone is forced or manipulated into unwanted sexual activity without their consent. Consent, by definition, means permission for something to happen or agreement to do something.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), when someone gives consent, they are giving permission for something to happen or agreeing to do something. This means they need to know specifically what they are agreeing to. It is important that this information is made very clear and that specific questions are being asked. Reasons someone might not consent include fear, age, illness, disability and/or influence of alcohol or other drugs.
Anyone can experience sexual violence, including children, teens, adults, and elders. Those who sexually abuse can be acquaintances, family, trusted individuals or strangers; of these, the first three categories are most common. Sexual violence impacts not only survivors, but their families, friends, partners, children, spouses and/or coworkers as well. In order to best assist the survivor, it is important for those close to them to get support.
It is important to know there are things you can do to prevent sexual violence and make a difference in the lives of others. Be a role model for respectful relationships at both home and in your community, and speak up if you hear harmful comments or witness acts of disrespect or violence. Create policies at workplaces and schools, and talk with legislators and ask them to support prevention programs.
If you know someone who has been directly affected by sexual violence, or if you have been affected yourself, there are ways you can seek out help in your communities. Staff in our Counseling & Wellness Centers are trained to address a variety of challenges and behaviors associated with sexual violence trauma. If you feel that you need to talk to someone, call our toll-free number at 833-444-6378 to request an appointment, or use the button below to request more information.