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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Things to Remember After SAAM

With Sexual Assault Awareness Month wrapping up at the end of April, it is important to address certain issues so everyone can understand them. 
I have had the opportunity and the pleasure of joining The Women’s Center and working with some amazing and strong women throughout this semester. Best of all, I have had the opportunity to be able to take part in planning Sexual Assault Awareness Month and in specific, The Clothesline Project, an exhibit made up of t-shirts with the stories of those affected by sexual violence in order to raise awareness. This, without a doubt, has become one of the most empowering and emotional experiences I have had during my time in college. 
The first thing I noticed while planning this month was that many people had no idea what sexual assault actually meant. It is important to understand that sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Sexual assault is not only rape; it is *any* type of unwanted sexual contact. 
It is important to understand that this happens every single day to so many people. I have had too many conversations just this month with other women about how many times they go out each day and are harassed, touched, or grabbed by others without their consent. The sad part is that at this point, it seems like it is become normalized. Bystanders do not even blink an eye at it and those who experience it have just become used to having to take extra precautions “just in case.”
t is tiring and infuriating to have to constantly be afraid of something happening. We should not have to explain to others why no one has the right to do as they please with our bodies. I have heard many excuses coming from the media and even people I know, that survivors of sexual violence “asked for it” or that “if they didn’t want it, they could’ve just stopped it”. I am here to tell those who say that, that they are wrong. No one ever asks or wants to be sexually assaulted or harassed. There is a lack of respect for others in this culture that allows people to behave like this and others to turn their heads the other way and make excuses like these for them. 
 According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, “in the U.S., one in three women and one in six men experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime.” Furthermore, one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college.
To make matters worse, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center also reported that “Rape is the most under-reported crime; 63 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to police” and “more than 90 percent of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault.” 
Now imagine all of the people that surround your life. The people walking by you in the street, in your neighborhood, or campus, and even your friends or family, imagine that those statistics apply to them because they just might. Sexual assault has been called the silent epidemic because as common as it may be, no one talks about it. Excuses are constantly made for perpetrators and survivors are constantly silenced. 
I realized through my experience with The Clothesline Project how prevalent this issue is. I have read the most heartbreaking stories, but have also seen survivors take their power back and voice their experiences for everyone to see. They also have given me the power to do the same. Their stories have all had an impact on me, and because of them and this project, I was able to see and hear that my story has had an impact on others. 
It has been overwhelmingly emotional and difficult to be a part of this project, but it has also been extremely empowering. I felt safe and at peace in the exhibit because I felt understood and not alone. It is unacceptable that in a room with so many terrifying stories, that a person can feel safe. 
For those who want to support survivors and stop sexual violence, pay attention to the people around you. Realize that pain is not always something you can see. Inform yourself and others of what sexual violence is, how it can affect those who experience it, and what resources are available to help them. Also, remember that consent is everything.
For those who are survivors, remember that as lonely as you may feel, you are not alone. You have people who love and support you, and you have resources to help you. As hard as it may be, you are strong and you will get through it. Remember that your voice and story wields so much power, you just have to use it.
It is important to realize that while it is not “sexual assault awareness month” anymore, the issue has not magically disappeared. As uncomfortable as it may be of a topic, we need to talk about it and have respect for others. We cannot allow this type of behavior anymore. No more turning the other way and making excuses.