The existence of sexual violence in the workplace and in our communities has received increased media coverage over the last several years. Raising awareness about sexual violence is important. However, with these experiences being more broadly shared, victim blaming has also come to the forefront.
Sexual violence doesn’t happen because of lust or desire. It happens because of power and control. It is the absence of consent. The absence of a clear and resounding “yes!”.
According to the Center for Disease Control, nearly 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men will experience sexual violence in their lifetime. As we grapple with these realities, we must remember that sexual assault is never the victim’s fault. Sexual assault is a violent attack on an individual, not a spontaneous crime of sexual passion. No one “asks” for or deserves this type of attack.
When we blame victims for what has happened to them, we marginalize and dismiss the trauma they have experienced. And, when we put the blame back on the victim, it makes it even harder for individuals to disclose their assault and receive the help they deserve.
All sexual violence survivors are deserving of support, regardless of the circumstances. If someone discloses to you, tell them you are there for them. Let them know you believe them and it’s not their fault.
Always communicate with your sexual partner – don’t assume consent. Communication should be ongoing and clear. The absence of a “no” is not a “yes!”.
And finally, be an active bystander! If you see a friend or someone else who is not able to consent, take a moment to safely intervene.
April marks 20 years since the National Sexual Violence Resource Center declared this month as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. As we continue working to prevent sexual violence and supporting survivors who have been impacted by it, we encourage you to use your voice to change the narrative.
Director of Day One,
Crime Victim Services