April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Read below for our volunteer, Jessie’s, take on how to be more than just aware!
“For those working on a cause they care about, the first instinct is often to make sure that as many people as possible are aware of the problem. When we care about an issue or a cause, it’s natural to want others to care as much as we do.” -Stop Raising Awareness Already, Christiano & Neimand
People may confuse being knowledgeable about a health issue, like the ongoing epidemic of sexual violence, with taking action to address it. While awareness is a great first step, there should be a couple steps after it as well.
Sexual Assault Awareness Month should go hand-in-hand with a call to action. Part of our response to sexual assault should be finding ways to help. Awareness has the potential to break ground for productivity, teamwork, and more, but it does not do any of the heavy-lifting itself.
Let’s break down some language. Self-awareness is when you understand how your behavior affects and impacts other people. Self-regulation is making small or large adjustments to your behavior to change or alter the situation as a whole.
For example, self-awareness might look like someone acknowledging that slut-shaming women contributes to rape culture. The next step towards self-regulation could be that person actively interrupting slut-shaming when they hear it in their friend groups, or stopping themselves when they are tempted to slut-shame other people.
New rules for awareness? Learn, teach, and react.
Research has found that when people are simply given information, they are unlikely to change their beliefs or behavior. As a community, we must think actively about how to transition from awareness to regulation and change. One of the simplest things we can do to move forward from just awareness, is to educate. It is not enough to recognize that sexual assault happens far too frequently in our communities. By educating others and ourselves on topics like consent, privilege, rape culture, oppression, and bias, we can help our community understand what the root causes of sexual violence are, and take steps towards prevention.
As an organization built from advocates, SARC is seeking to inspire change in the public eye and community to move past just raising awareness.
Sexual assault is a terrible violation that affects many more people than just survivors. The entire system, our schools, our government, our entertainment, and more, is impacted by sexual violence. By making small changes in our personal lives and ourselves, we can change the way our culture responds to sexual assault moving forward.