By Anitra Edwards
“Let’s talk about sex, baby.
Let’s talk about you and me.
Let’s talk about all the good things
And the bad things that may be.”
Although we can still jam to the famous Salt-N-Pepa song, now is the perfect time to talk about sexual assault and dating abuse – it’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM)!
This is such an important issue for so many reasons. Did you know that sexual assault doesn’t just happen among strangers? More than half of female victims of rape report being raped by an intimate partner. In fact, one in six college women has been sexually abused or assaulted in a dating relationship.
This year, the theme for SAAM is “Prevention is Possible,” because we know that by building healthy, respectful relationships we can prevent sexual assault. This issue affects young people from all backgrounds, so we need your help!
Before we can prevent it, we’ve got to talk about what sexual assault is. Our friends at the Office on Women’s Health define sexual assault as any type of forced or pressured sexual contact or behavior that happens without consent, from unwanted kissing or touching to rape or attempted rape. A partner might say things to coerce or guilt their partner into sexual activity, so it’s important to be aware of language that can signify a red flag. For example, you might hear:
- “It’s not rape if we’re in a relationship.” False! It is rape if one partner forces the other to have sex or to perform sexual acts. Being in a relationship with someone – even a long-term committed one – does not mean that you are required to have sex or do anything sexually that you don’t want to do.
- “If you loved me, you would do it.” It’s never okay to coerce or manipulate someone into sex of any kind. You don’t have to show your love to your partner by doing things that you aren’t comfortable with. Love does not have to mean sex.
- “If you don’t have sex with me, I’ll break up with you or worse.” If someone threatens you, they are taking away your option to consent and that is not okay at all. Everyone has the right to decide when, how and with whom they want to be intimate.
We must also remember that sexual assault and abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of gender identify, sexual orientation or relationship status. Sexual assault is never the victim’s fault.
This April (and throughout the year!) we can take advice from Salt-N-Pepa when they say “don’t decoy, avoid, or make void the topic.” Let’s work together to promote healthy relationships and prevent sexual assault!
More to Check Out During SAAM:
- For more information on how you and your friends can build healthy, safe and respectful relationships, visit girlshealth.gov.
- If you’re in Austin, TX you can participate in Voices Against Violence’s events throughout the month. Be sure to stop by loveisrespect’s table at Take Back the Night on April 6!
- RAINN has more information on sexual assault and ways to get involved for SAAM. Their National Sexual Assault Hotline is available 24/7 at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
- It’s On Us, an initiative launched by the White House, partners with organizations around the country to raise awareness, educate bystanders and provide tools for reducing sexual assault on campuses.
- Be part of the NSVRC’s #30DaysofSAAM contest on Instagram
- Project Unbreakable is photographer Grace Brown’s project aiming to give voice to survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse.