April is Sexual Assault Awareness month which means the NO MORE campaign will be everywhere you look – from social media, to our city streets. You might be asking yourself, “What does ‘No More’ mean and why the teal ‘O’?” The NO MORE symbol was developed because, despite the significant progress that has been made in raising awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault, these pervasive issues remain hidden and on the margins of public concern. NO MORE is a ground-breaking symbol, like the pink breast cancer ribbon and the red AIDS ribbon. It has been designed to galvanize change and radically increase the awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault in our communities. The signature blue vanishing point originated from the concept of a zero – as in zero incidences of domestic violence and sexual assault. The smaller, inner circle of the vanishing point symbolizes moving toward our end goal when, “Together we can end domestic violence and sexual assault.”
In addition to understanding the concept of the campaign, it’s important we all know why this matters to us and what we can do to help. Nationally, 1 in 4 women are injured by severe physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. In West Virginia, one in every six adult women and one in 21 men will be the victim of an attempted or completed forcible rape in their lifetime. That number should really hit home for all of us. This means that it’s very likely that you personally know at least one person who has been a victim of rape or sexual assault. Another startling figure is that 70-80 percent of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows. Teens and young adults are at a much greater risk of being victimized. In fact, teens age sixteen to nineteen years of age are four times more likely to be a victim of rape than the general population. Lastly, only 6 percent of rapists will ever spend a day in jail. Keeping that in mind, we can see the importance of curtailing the cultural factors that allow sexual violence, but also the importance of speaking up about the issues and breaking the habit of not talking about these issues with our youth.
Your role in prevention is significant. You can help in the changing of the underlying norms and culture that allows sexual violence. Be a role model for respectful behavior to those around you. Talk with your children about healthy sexual development and personal boundaries. Intervene and speak up when you see inappropriate behavior. Traditional gender roles, power imbalances, and victim-blaming all contribute to sexual violence. Violence prevention can’t just focus on perpetrators and survivors. It has to involve everyone and engage men as allies in preventing sexual assault. Most men are not perpetrators, and social norms research tells us that men often overestimate other men’s acceptance of abusive behavior towards women. This can lead perpetrators to think their actions are acceptable – which, of course perpetuates the violence. We can break this cycle by engaging men in speaking out against rape and sexual assault. We want you to be a part of the solution.
For more facts and myths about sexual assault, visit http://www.fris.org/SexualViolence/SexualViolence.html.
Brought to you by the Family Refuge Center serving Greenbrier, Monroe and Pocahontas counties. www.familyrefugecenter.org