Look for Ways to Start the Conversation About Preventing Sexual Assault This April
For the past 16 years, the nation has observed national Sexual Assault Awareness Month each April. This year the month-long campaign is titled Engaging New Voices and is geared toward encouraging those with an influential voice to speak up about the problem and ways to prevent it. The hope is that when voices from several spheres of influence join together with one message, the next generation will be positively impacted toward healthy and respectful relationships.
The Effects of Sexual Assault
The fact is that almost 20 percent of all women in the U.S. are confronted with the issue of sexual violence over their lifetimes. The emotional consequences of this form of violence can be extensive and long lasting. Victims commonly experience feelings of shame and guilt and a sense of isolation. In the immediate short-term, victims of sexual assault go through the same shock and feelings of numbness that affect many victims of violent crimes. In the long-term, victims may face depression or other psychiatric disorders like PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).
Who can Help Prevent Sexual Assault?
Who are the voices of influence who could help change the trajectory for our country by starting conversations with our future leaders? Athletic coaches, pastors, teachers and campus leaders are a good place to begin. These are the voices who currently have the ear of young people today. Research shows that while parents often feel powerless to influence their teen or young adult children, their voices are actually the most powerful. Parents need to be encouraged to speak up and given the tools for starting the conversation about sexual respect.
The YWCA as a Community Voice
The St. Joseph YWCA is a strong voice in the community on the subject of sexual violence and assault. We are a voice of compassion and hope for those affected. However, we want to speak not only to victims, but to the broader community as well. We want all citizens to be aware of how their words, attitudes and actions can communicate the importance of sexual respect and honoring of boundaries.
This April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and we encourage you to make plans now to speak to the young people in your life about this critical subject. Change is possible. The future can be different from the past, but only if we provide the guidance young people need about what a healthy relationship looks like and why it matters.