"Interpersonal violence includes child maltreatment, intimate partner violence, sexual violence, youth violence and elder abuse. It takes place in the home, on the streets and in other public settings, in the workplace and in institutions such as schools, hospitals and residential care facilities" (definition by World Health Organization)
The last few weeks at work I have been preparing for April.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) in the United States. It's a month to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate individuals and communities on how to help prevent sexual assault.
I've been working in colleges and universities, as a professional, for...oh gosh....seven years now. And with the different positions I've held have always been a part of the prevention programming. It's something that I think is especially important and near and dear to my heart.
I've been working hard at bringing a SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) to campus to talk to my students about what they can do to help (future) patients who might come to them about having been assaulted. I've been researching and creating a brochure designed around Interpersonal Violence and local resources. We're teaming up with the larger university in town to advertise and participate in their Take Back the Night happening the end of April; as well as promoting National Denim Day.
I currently work at a graduate level college; a first for me. Educating "adults"...future doctors...about domestic violence and sexual assault is so much different than educating undergraduates about prevention.
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It's said that 1 in 3 women are assault in their lifetime, in the United States.
Think about that.
1 in 3 women!
Look around you.... At work, at school, in your family....1 in 3....
I live in a house with two other women (my mother and my younger sister)... There are three of us.
I am that 1 in 3.
I am a survivor.
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It's been nearly 15 years since my boyfriend (at the time) forced me to have sex with him. I wasn't asked if I wanted to. I wasn't asked if I was ready to lose my virginity. I wasn't even sure what was happening until it was over.
We had gone out on our first "real" date earlier that evening, and saw a movie. He was taking me home. We were outside my house, with my family just inside, and before I knew it.....
He didn't hit me or threaten me or even say anything to me during it. It couldn't have lasted more than a few seconds before a car came around the corner and he stopped and went home. It was a few days before I talked to him again, before I broke up with him, no explanation just I didn't want to see him anymore.
Even now, years later, and after all the work I've done in prevention education, I still have a hard time saying "I was raped".
"Rape" always is portrayed as something "violent" and this wasn't....but I do know that sex is about consent and I didn't give my consent.
He didn't ask.
And I didn't say yes.
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April may be the designated month to educate and bring awareness to our communities, friends, family and selves about sexual assault. But rape and sexual violence doesn't happen just once a year.
Interpersonal violence and abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, sexual orientation, size or strength.
So next time you hear a friend shout "You just got raped" when playing a video game, laughing at a "prison-Bubba" joke, or making light of a music video/movie/commercial that makes light of domestic and sexual violence... remember to look around you.
1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men* will be assaulted in their lifetime. Look around you. You may be in the room with a survivor. You may be that survivor.
Rape is no joke**
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If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted - please seek help.
National Rape Crisis Helpline
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*1 in 6 men report being sexually assaulted. But where rape is still stigmatized as a "women's issue" it is agreed that this number is much higher when taking into consideration the assaults that go unreported.
**I understand, and realize, that this posting is being published on April 1st (April Fool's Day) but I assure you this entry is no joke and 100% my story.