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Learning the importance of consent and sexual assault

YWCA Our Voice

The entire month of April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month in honor of the victims who have suffered, and continue to suffer, from sexual assault. Also known as SAAM, April is important to the YWCA since we’ve helped many survivors of sexual assault. Looking for relief from their experience, they look to Wise Options, which has helped survivors of sexual assault since 1977.

Some people don’t completely understand what sexual assault is, so a simple definition is this: Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual contact where consent has not been obtained or freely given. This definition includes rape, incest, grabbing or groping, prostitution, sexual harassment (i.e. catcalling or other inappropriate sexual remarks or physical advances) and sexting without permission.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, or NSVRC, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime.

That means that every third woman you see, and every sixth man, has been touched inappropriately at some point in their life.

And it’s not just adults. One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old. More than a third of those victims are sexually abused by a family member.

I know we like to pretend it doesn’t happen, not because it doesn’t, but because it’s uncomfortable. It’s not something you can talk about with your friends while hanging out and it’s not a subject that people want to hear while eating dinner.

But it happens. Much more than it should. It shouldn’t happen at all. Innocent children and unsuspecting adults are being used as a sexual object for someone else’s gratification. Does that make you angry? Sad? Maybe ashamed?

The 2020 SAAM theme is #IAsk. Consent is about more than just asking — it is about listening to and accepting the answer without pressuring someone to change their mind.

Sexual assault victims are individuals who did not give consent or give consent freely. They are people who had something taken from them, something that is supposed to be completely and solely theirs: Their body.

As we grow up, we learn that our body is ours, it doesn’t belong to anybody else. We make our own choices with our bodies: We eat, we exercise, we sleep, we get tattoos or piercings. What we do with our bodies is up to us. But when that is taken from someone, it leaves them violated, bare, sore. One’s mentality is bruised, some physically bruised.

That’s why it’s important to teach your kids about consent. The YWCA posted several videos on our Facebook page of employees reading stories to teach parents and their kids about safety and consent. You can view them by visiting www.facebook.com/ywcancpa. Trust your kids when they tell you something and be there for them if they need to talk to you.

As always, Wise Options at the YWCA Northcentral PA is available. We have advocates on call, ready to assist anyone who has experienced domestic violence, sexual assault or other violent crimes. Call our 24/7 confidential crisis hotline at 1-800-326-8483 to speak with a caring advocate today.

— Kern is the communications and marketing coordinator at the YWCA. If you are experiencing domestic abuse or sexual assault, Wise Options can help 24/7 with a confidential hotline at 800-326-8483.

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