April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and this years’ theme is “Embrace Your Voice”. Our voices have the power to shape the world around us. In regard to sexual violence, how we talk about it matters. One goal of this theme is for individuals to think about how they can use their voice to impact and make the necessary change to change the way we think and talk about sexual violence.
There are several different ways that one can embrace their voice and use it to change the way we think. Some examples include practicing consent, challenging gender bias and stereotypes, and becoming aware of rape culture and how that affects the way we view sexual violence.
One way in which we can practice consent is by having parents talk to their children about respecting their bodies and teaching them that their body belongs to them. Teaching children to say “No” to anyone who may come in contact with them is an important lesson for children to know.
Another way that we can change the way we talk is by standing against stereotypes and gender bias. It is important to know that sexual violence is not something that only happens to women. There is not a “face” for sexual violence. Anyone can be a victim of sexual violence, and more often than not, the victim knows who their attacker is. But it is also vital to note that placing the blame on the victim is not something that we should do. It is never the victim’s fault that the assault happened. It didn’t happen to them because they were wearing certain clothes, such as a dress or a tank top and shorts, or because they were drinking and being irresponsible. The clothes or alcohol did not cause the rape; the rapist did. Survivors of sexual assault each have their own way of going through the healing process. Some survivors may never report that the assault happened to them, some may wait years before bringing the assault up, and others report what happened to them right away, so that they receive the justice they are looking for. Each individual is unique and their healing process is what they feel is best for them.
Rape culture is another area that has a great influence on the topic of sexual violence. The media plays a crucial role in how we think and talk about sexual violence. One way that you can fight against rape culture is by recognizing the music that you listen too, and what the words of what you are listening to are saying, the TV shows and movies that you watch, and seeing how both men and women are perceived. It is even evident in many advertisements both in magazines and on TV how both men and women are viewed in society.
But we fight back against these norms and challenge them to create real change in our culture. When we are able to recognize the way we speak influences culture, we then can strive to move towards a culture of respect, safety, and equality. The time has come for individuals to realize that what they say matters. We all have a voice and we need to embrace it!