April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month(SAAM). The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) coordinates this campaign.
The goal of SAAM is to raise public awareness about sexual violence (focusing on sexual assault and rape) and to educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence.
The theme for 2010 is: Prevent Sexual Violence…on our campuses. The focus this year is on the very real problem college students face regarding high rates of sexual violence – 1 in 5 college women will be a victim of sexual assault by the time she graduates. Hopefully, education at this point can have a lasting effect on students throughout their lives. Certainly prevention can!
In my practice as a trauma therapist I am keenly aware of the serious impact of sexual violence. The desire to focus on prevention (not just healing after the fact) seems reflected even here at my Blog. My post, How To Prevent Rape, is my most viewed ever. The cool WordPress dashboard features allow me to see what search terms folks use to find my site. I can see that almost every day people find their way to my blog looking for ways to prevent rape. Sadly, some also wind up here via the search term “how to rape”. Either way it proves the need for education and awareness about rape and sexual violence.
I want to share my response to one comment on that post. The commenter seemed confused by the article and its stance regarding where responsibility for rape and ending violence ultimately belongs. The following response illustrates my philosophy and something I am keeping in mind as we begin Sexual Assault Awareness Month:
The issue the How To Prevent Rape piece and my comments are illustrating is that the onus for preventing rape has wrongly been placed on the potential victims. (See Men Can Stop Rape for more information about a different approach).
Only by putting responsibility where it really belongs, on those who commit acts of violence and abuse, can we start to break this cycle.
That means, as a culture we need to shift the focus to holding rapists/abusers/perpetrators accountable for their actions. It means looking at the larger cultural issues that create (mostly) men who become rapists/abusers.
It also means exploding the myth that there is some way to protect yourself from all possible abuse/violence as a woman. This myth is destructive because it contributes to victim blaming (if a woman is raped it is because SHE did something wrong).
Language like would you “let” a woman do xy or z is really problematic to me! All adults have the right to live their lives in the manner they decide, including drinking in a bar or walking around at 5am if they choose. The consequence for that should not be rape. To continue to live in a world that expects women to have less freedom in these ways than men is part of the problem, not the solution, in my opinion.
More information on the 2010 SAAM Campaign
View the Sexual Assault Awareness Month Photostream.
For local Chicago events check out Rape Victim Advocates SAAM calendar.