April is sexual assault awareness month. This international, annual campaign helps with sexual assault survivors and educating others regarding its seriousness. During April, communities and individuals try to inform themselves on what sexual assault is and how to prevent it. Sexual assault is a large umbrella that entails multiple things. Thus, campaigns and people who care strive to spread awareness, and encourage people to speak up about their assaults to prevent it, and to properly deal with them.
During a survey done on women in Cairo in 2014, 95.3% of women surveyed admitted to having been sexually harassed in Cairo before. That’s just the women though. However, men rarely open up about being sexually assaulted, serving as a whole other problem in itself. Additionally, sexual assault takes place either through direct interactions with people, or through online digital platforms. When someone engages in an unwarranted sexual dialogue or sends you graphic pictures, this in itself is a form of sexual assault.
To protect yourself and others from sexual assault, and to spread awareness about it, there are multiple things you can do:
Understand what sexual assault is
Sexual assault is when someone intentionally approaches someone in a sexual manner without the other person’s consent. This includes touching of any sort, verbal sexual assault, forcing the other person to engage in a sexual act against their will, rape, molestation, marital rape, child sexual abuse, and multiple other factors.
Engage in a conversation with your family and friends to help them better understand what sexual assault is, how it looks and sounds like, and how it can be subtle at times.
You can volunteer at organizations that help support victims, or improve safety measures in public places, schools, or college campuses.
Understand the trauma
Try to understand how the victim was affected and their struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, or addiction. They can develop an overbearing mistrust from people, or from feeling safe in specific environments.
Encourage victims to speak up about their abusers
To bring the abuser to justice. This can be through confronting your family, and sharing your experience with them, or through using the power of social media, as has been the case in Egypt for some time now. One of the most inspiring ways to take control of the situation is to talk about it. Several find it empowering to themselves when speaking up through social media, but not everyone may find this as the way they’d like to go about it with. The victim is sure to find several people supporting them, and can be encouraged when they see all the other victims gathering up the courage to speak up. Recently, victims have also been contacting Assault Police’s Instagram page, as they help expose abusers and share the victim’s stories.
Embrace this April and start with yourself in spreading the word, and help educate those ignorant to the matter. Sexual assault is a daily fact for so many people, and it’s about time people know how it looks, and how it manifests.