Verbal gender-based street harassment would not be as threatening or scary if there was not a very real underlying threat of sexual violence. About one in six women will face sexual violence in her lifetime (roughly 17%). While most women will know the person who hurts them, the randomness of the attacks on those who do not can keep most women on guard when they are alone in public.
Ending sexual violence would make women feel safe in public and in general (though not always welcome in public if they’re still being demeaned and disrespected by verbal harassment).
Ending sexual violence is an abstract and seemingly unrealistic goal, but it is an important one. And we can each do small things to help achieve it. For example, in our daily life we can challenge sexism, always ask for consent with our sexual partners, and avoid using violence.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) so I also want to highlight some of the many projects and initiatives you can become involved with to work to end sexual violence. The initiatives focus on raising awareness about the high rates of sexual assault and raising money to help fund essential programs focused on prevention and helping survivors. I’ve included a list of several of these below.
I hope this month everyone can do at least one thing – be it donating a few dollars to an anti-sexual violence organization or attending an event – to help bring us that much closer to the ultimate goal of ending sexual violence.
- The National Sexual Violence Resource Center provides a variety of resources each year for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, including free reports and manuals and campaign materials. Their goal is to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities and individuals about how to prevent sexual violence. Order and use their items in your workplace, campus, or at a community event.
- Organize or participate in The Clothesline Project, an initiative to bear witness to violence against women. Women affected by violence decorate a shirt and hang the shirt on a clothesline to be viewed by others as testimony to the problem of men’s violence against women. Read instructions on how to start a Clothesline Project in your community or on campus.
- Participate in Denim Day in LA & USA. Make a social statement by wearing jeans on a designated day in April (this year it is April 21) as a visible means of protest against misconceptions that surround sexual assault. Order their Denim Day Action Kit and raise awareness at your workplace, neighborhood, or community. Encourage each person who participates to donate one dollar to Denim Day to fund prevention programming.
- Are you a runner or walker? Sign up for a local race in April and fundraise for Jeans for Justice as part of their Justice in Motion program. All fundraising proceeds will go toward art-based educational initiatives about sexual assault at high schools and college campuses. (My parents and I are participating in this program by running a half marathon on April 11)
- Organize or participate in a Take Back the Night March in your community or on campus and make a statement that women have the right to be in public and to go about their lives without the risk of sexual violence. Order a kit with resources for the event.
- Organize or participate in a V-Day event. V-Day offers several performance and film screening options for groups to implement in their community in February, March, and April. The purpose of these events is to raise awareness about violence against women and girls as well as raise money for local beneficiaries that are working to end violence. There is no theater or producing experience necessary. Visit the V-Day website to learn how to organize a V-Day event.
- Help start a White Ribbon Campaign in your community. By wearing a white ribbon, campaign members make a personal pledge to “never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women and girls.” You can order materials to help challenge the community to speak out on the issue, learn about sexual violence, and raise public awareness.
- During April you can order Men Can Stop Rape materials at a 30% discount. Order posters and hang them up in your community or workplace or on campus. Sign up for their summer training on prevention and involving men in ending sexual violence.
- Are you on campus? Find out your campus sexual assault policy and participate in SAFER (Students Active for Ending Rape) and V-Day’s Campus Accountability Project. Submit your school’s policy for inclusion in their database. Want to improve your campus policy? SAFER offers various online resources and guides and they will even come to your campus to train you in how to go about improving the policy.
- Volunteer or donate for a rape crisis center at the local or national level. Help raise money or donate to an organization like RAINN. (I’m coming up my second anniversary as a RAINN volunteer for their Online Hotline; it’s emotional but powerful and worthwhile work).
Thank you. You can make a difference!