This Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Survivors and Allies Have the Power
“Man with 19 Accusers Declares April Sexual Assault Awareness Month.” Nope, folks: that wasn’t an Onion headline. That was an actual headline from April 2 of this year, recounting actual facts, about a very real-life man actually leading our nation.
Reading a headline like that, it’s pretty easy to let your active, righteous anger be dampened by fear. After all, the power of any President of the United States extends beyond the symbolic. This. Man. Has. Power. To. Impact. Change. When it comes to sexual assault (and especially campus sexual assault), our President and his administration have power to affect the lives of survivors across the country with misinformed policy reform and rollbacks.
Facing that imposing potential for power, it’s easy to forget the incredible capacity we have to fight back.
And so, this Sexual Assault Awareness Month (#SAAM), we want to remind our community that we too can makes changes, big and small, in our hometowns and across the nation. Yup, President Trump and his handful of remaining appointed officials do have power. But we are many, and we are more powerful:
1. We have the power to correct misinformation. Shout it loud for Department of Education Deputy Assistant Candice Jackson and that guy on Facebook you went to middle school with: Rape isn’t misreported 90% of the time. It isn’t misreported 50% of the time, or even 10% of the time. Rape is actually misreported between 2-8% of the time, in the same ranges as other felonies.
3. We have the power to take our schools to court if they jeopardize our civil right to access to education after an assault, to seek damages and policy change through litigation.
4. We have the power to say #MeToo and bring down industry titans.
5. We have the power to walk out of our classrooms and to demand changes when our administration mishandles sexual harassment and sexual assault. We can make a hashtag to show voice our stories (#ShareYourStoryCKM), and we’ll make sure our demands are heard by our school’s administration.
6. We have the power to sue the U.S. Department of Education in the face of rollbacks on protections for student survivors of sexual assault.
7. We have the power to expand the image of who survivors are and center voices at the margins of sexual assault discourse and media coverage to ensure prevention and response efforts aren’t exclusive. We can share that:
- girls of color are disproportionately punished for “acting out” after experiencing sexual violence,
- that LGBTQ youth report higher percentages of harassment and assault and LGBTQ youth of color are 3 times more likely to miss school,
- and that children with disabilities are 2.9 times more likely to be victims of sexual abuse compared to children without disabilities.
8. We have the power to write legislation to clear a backlog of rape kit evidence, to change laws so more workplace relationships are covered by protections against sexual harassment and assault, to extend the statute of limitations for sexual harassment and assault.
9. We have the power to take action and write to our state representatives and governors to demand they pass smart and strong laws.
10. We have the power to intervene as a bystander.
Throughout Sexual Assault Awareness Month, you’ll see content from Equal Rights Advocates across our blog and social media highlighting perspectives on sexual assault awareness and prevention from diverse voices. We’ll share the work of student-facing organizations combating campus sexual assault. We’ll talk about innovative state laws. We’ll hold up our own casework for others to see what justice can look like for survivors.
Equal Rights Advocates will continue to remind you that together, we are endlessly powerful.
Have written content or a story that you’d like ERA to highlight throughout April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month? Leave a comment below or email Becca at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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