Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Sexual Assault Awareness Month

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Highlights:
  • Sexual assault and violence, across genders, ages, color, faith, is a depressing truth across the world.
  • The Sexual Assault Awareness Month is observed in April every year. The 2017 slogan for the month is "Engaging New Voices". Throughout April, activists, advocates and communities organize various events to generate awareness, circulate information, aid prevention, and enable survivors to find confidence and strength with their experiences. The color teal symbolizes the month.
  • The Sexual Assault Awareness Day of Action is observed annually on the first Tuesday of April. This year 4th Aprilis the day of action.
Sexual violence is one of the most disturbing realities of our times. While the history of sexual coercion dates back several centuries across the world, the fact that this is a major public health and human rights issue, with severe repercussions on the physical, emotional, sexual and reproductive health of the victim, has only been recognized recently.
Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Further, the spectrum of sexual violence came to expand beyond violence against women only at a much later stage, after the issue came into the public eye in all its enormity, as late as the 20th century.

The Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) was observed for the first time in the U.S.A, on April 1, 2001. The aim was to raise awareness on sexual assault issues, provide an opportunity for interaction to advocates and survivors, and encourage preventive measures within communities.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) founded in 2000, was the main driving force behind this movement. Since 2001, the organization, primarily a national information and resource center that actively participates in the collection and circulation of data and information, and advocacy of the rights of sexual assault survivors, has consistently aided communities in organizing SAAM activities with data and resources.

The Sexual Assault Awareness Day of Action is observed annually on the first Tuesday of April, to kickstart the awareness month. A soothing teal blue is taken to signify the month, and is often symbolized by a teal ribbon. This year the day of action is on 4th April. The 2017 SAAM slogan is 'Engaging New Voices'.

The worldwide culture of acceptance of sexual abuse and violence continues to be a major hindrance to addressing and eliminating the evil. The SAAM slogan 2017 focuses on bringing together people and groups that might play a positive role in implementing preventive measures and raising awareness.

The SAAM 2017 calls for action the following groups:
  • Greek Life or sorority and fraternity houses on college campuses: It is well-known that the campuses of colleges and universities are a primary location of different forms of sexual abuse. SAAM calls for leadership from members of these campus organizations in the context of sexual assault.
  • Parents of young children/teenagers: Parents can play a pivotal role in preparing young children for a healthy sexual experience. Instructing the child earlier on, about the parts of the body, including genitals, letting the little one choose whom to hug, are healthy ways of shaping the mind for later sexual encounters.
  • For teens too, dispelling any discomfort regarding discussions on sexuality, and
  • clarifying the importance of consent, is essential. Let your adolescent kid know that
  • you're there for him, or her.
  • Coaches: Coaches can control the power dynamics on the field. By clamping down onderogatory jokes with referecne to the human body, and fostering respect and appropriate behaviors among team members, coaches can provide timely intervention in a process of power play that could eventually express itself through sexual abuse.
  • Faith Leaders: Leaders of a faith community have the opportunity to set an example for others. Sexual violence affects people across faiths, religions, races, genders and ages. SAAM calls on these leaders to be there for the members of their congregations. Believing survivors of sexual trauma, organizing educational programs to raise awareness on healthy sexuality, are some of the ways in which this group of people can address the issue.
  • Survivors: SAAM calls upon assault survivors to make themselves heard. If you are a survivor, or if you know one, speak up. Do not hold it within you. You might find more comrades than you know. And know that you are the victim. It is not your fault!
  • Community Members: Finally, your community can play a significant role in diffusing the climate of tolerance and acceptance. Communities, especially online ones, can respond maturely to online sexual jokes, dissipating the victim's accountability, and placing responsibility at the perpetrator's door.
Sexual violence and assault is rampant in India too, with only 1 in 100 women reporting it to the police. In a country where about 22% of the population still lives in abject poverty, it is disturbing to imagine the actual extent of sexual abuse. It is, therefore, essential to know what exactly qualifies as sexual assault, to help oneself as well as others.

The WHO defines sexual violence as

Any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed, against a person's sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting, including but not limited to home and work.

Moreover, sexual assault is not limited to women alone. It can take the form of child sexual abuse, including child sex trafficking, of both boys and girls, and in 93% cases, the child is found to know the perpetrator.

Men too are victims of sexual assault, although social stereotypes of manliness usually prevent male survivors from coming forward. However, in the US, 1 in 25 reported cases involve men. While India still does not recognize male sexual assault, the Delhi-based Center for Civil Society conducted a survey where 18% men reported being sexually coerced. Men, as well as members of other genders, are subjected to sexual brutality, especially during armed conflict, and within prisons, but also during times of peace, at home and outside.

Prevent sexual assault. The best way to deal with it is to speak out, and not feel ashamed. Remember, it is never the survivor's fault, and always the perpetrator's. Look out for your loved ones, let them know that you're there for them. That alone can help a survivor.

References:
  1. Campaign Theme: Engaging New Voices - (http://www.nsvrc.org/saam/learn-more)
  2. Sexual violence - (http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/violence/global_campaign/en/chap6.pdf)


Source: Medindia

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