A few concrete steps that anyone can take.
Sexual Assault Awareness & Prevention Month is here again! If you have not heard about it, that’s unsurprising. Even my own university, the University of Arizona, has never once sent out even an email about it from the president or any higher office, which again, is painfully unsurprising considering their own interests in sweeping these things under the rug, like most institutions. This is America! But, I digress.
The color is teal! And even though a portion of society will never acknowledge it primarily due to their own interests, this awareness month is a great time to celebrate survivors and learn how to be better allies. If you fall under the category of being interested in supporting survivors, here are a few things that you can do.
- Check In On Your Survivor Friends
Even if it happened a long time ago, trauma stays with those who have endured sexual violence. It’s okay to ask your survivor friends how they’re doing, even if you need to be non-specific, depending on what you know of your friend. Everyone is different, but it usually can’t hurt to ask someone how they are and what’s been on their mind lately. You might be surprised at how far it takes you.
2. Show Your Support
Wear teal, take a pic, post it, dismantle rape myths on your socials, and express your intolerance for sexual misconduct. Did you know that people who commit acts of sexual violence often believe their peers support their actions? The more we express intolerance for sexual violence, the more that becomes the norm. It is not a frivolous act of support to simply say that you do not stand for it- in fact, it could go a long way in your peer group.
3. Engage & Learn
Listen to a podcast. Read a book or an in-depth, impactful article. Learn about trauma. Tackle topics that you cannot understand, like sexual assault leading to substance abuse or hypersexuality, and hear it from survivors themselves. Increase your empathy. Hear from diverse voices. Fill your IG and Twitter feeds with survivor voices. Watch TV in the name of education! Be open to learning and listening. Believe it or not, the basics of rape myths and understanding still have not been tackled.
4. Unlearn Harmful Myths and Behaviors
Examine your own biases through an intersectional lens. Actively practice awareness to change what contributes to rape culture and oppression. Learn about missing & murdered indigenous women. Think about why people do not report, what is at stake, and how anyone’s identity (which could be yours one day- whoever you are) intersects with reporting decisions. If you have a visceral reaction to any victim-blaming rape myth, start out by learning about tea. Remind yourself always: the choice a survivor makes to report or not is the best choice for them, because the choice to report to the criminal system is almost always a destructive one.
5. Support Survivor Businesses and Projects
Sign petitions. Stand up for a survivor whose publicized story is being shredded by trolls on Facebook. It’s hard for you to do it, but it’s harder for them to read it without any support. Shop from survivors. Subscribe to their YouTube channels and podcasts whether you plan to watch or listen or not, although obviously, I’d hope that you would listen. Buy their books. Support any number of survivor organizations, especially those not in the mainstream, and those whose focus is youth. Prevention beats pain and punishment. Help to make up for the average $122,461 cost of survivorship that nobody asked for.
6. Limit Victim-Blaming Vocabulary
How do survivors know that it’s safe to talk to you about their experience and receive basic human decency and support? Don’t speak in victim-blaming language, regardless of the situation. Things not to say, in any situation: “I’m mad at you because what you did was preventable”, especially in situations that were unforeseen, aka, not preventable. Even if you’re not speaking about this from the perspective of sexual assault, if the situation is regarding the safety of any human being, survivors will take note of what you believe is ‘preventable’ and what you believe is their fault. Watch your language and beliefs and attitudes in every category when it comes to blame for harm placed on a person. Accordingly readjust if your goal is to stay in their life and be seen as someone who at best is a support and at minimum understands.
These are just a few concrete ways to support survivors this month and always. What will you commit to doing to support survivors and prevent sexual assault?
Please share other survivor projects and resources in the comments!