When it comes to monthly observances, it’s no surprise that Sexual Assault Awareness Month is a tough one to talk about. No one wants to think about the stark reality of sexual assault and its pervasiveness in our culture. But that’s exactly why we need to talk about it.
Last Wednesday, March 31st, Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands (STSM) held an Official Superhero Gathering to launch their awareness campaign. Community Superheroes, myself included, were tasked to complete five missions, each teaching us a little more about STSM and how this incredible agency is addressing sexual assault in our community.
But before you can solve a problem, you have to understand it. And that’s where things get tough. No one wants to hear that one in six women will be raped in their lifetime, or that 80% of attacks are perpetrated by someone the survivor knows, or that 70% of all reported sexual assaults, the survivor is 17 years old or younger. It’s hard to hear that survivors are six times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, and exponentially more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs.
How to Help Prevent Sexual Assault and Support Survivors
So what can we do as a community of superheroes and mothers to stop this first from happening, and second, to support survivors so they can reclaim their lives?
The biggest thing you can do right now to curb sexual assault is to talk about it. Talk to your families and your children about what is appropriate touch, what is not, and how to tell the difference.
Not sure where to start? STSM can help! They offer Child Sexual Abuse Prevention courses for children as young as three years old and Youth Violence Prevention programs for students in middle and high school.
By teaching our children what is acceptable, we not only help them protect themselves, but establish early that their bodies are their own. And when they learn that their bodies are their own, they also learn that others have the same bodily autonomy and to respect those boundaries. And education is not just for kids! Lifelong learning is key to continued prevention and there are classes for adults as well.
But when the unthinkable happens, STSM offers a wealth of supportive services for survivors of sexual assault, from hospital accompaniment to counseling to personal and legal advocacy. Every service is tailored to the survivor to give them the best possible outcome in what is likely the worst time of their lives.
While I wish that such an organization did not have to exist, I am so grateful that it does. As a Community Superhero, I will wear my pin with pride and talk about Sexual Assault Awareness Month so that hopefully, my daughter won’t have to. And if you are a survivor, please know that we believe you, it wasn’t your fault, and you are not alone.
Ways to Help Raise Awareness
Want to get involved? There are volunteer opportunities, outreach programs, donation drives and more! Contact Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands to find out how you can help. And save the date on April 27th for Denim Day. By wearing jeans on the 27th, you will help spread awareness for sexual assault survivors.