• Grace Schmuland

It's Sexual Violence Awareness Month!

Hello everyone and welcome to our 6th week of this blog! It’s become a familiar part of my weekly routine, and I hope the same is true for some of you.


This week’s topic is all about Sexual Violence Awareness Month (SVAM), because that is the month of May every year! Before I get started, because our topic is SVAM, this blog post contains content about sexual assault and harassment. I know that this is a difficult topic to talk and hear about. If this topic isn’t for you right now, for whatever reason, that is OKAY. One of the best things about coming to you through technology is that you have control! You can close this screen and stop reading right now if that is what makes you comfortable.


That said, for those of you who choose to stay, I thank you because I strongly believe in the power of raising awareness about sexual violence, not least because it IS such a difficult topic to talk about.


I had hoped that our tidal wave of content for this SVAM has caught your attention, and it seems to have done the trick! 91% of our lovely social media followers responded that they knew it is SVAM, hooray! I also asked, ‘what is an impact that you hope SVAM can have on your community’ and the answers I got were about raising awareness and eliminating the ‘taboo’ nature of the issue. Those tie in perfectly to what we are doing with this livestream and all the content that we will be posting this month! Making sure that people are becoming aware of the issue of sexual violence by talking about it, bringing attention to this normally avoided topic, is what we’re all about! So, let’s get started:

Main Points of SA&H Presentation

Stats

- The latest AASAS (Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services) study shows that just under 1 in 2 girls and 1 in 4 boys are sexually abused by the time they are 18. This shows how prevalent the issue is. These stats mean that around 43% of the population has been directly affected by sexual violence.

- LGB – 2x as likely to experience sexual violence, bisexual women are 7x more likely.

- 95% of sexual assault go unreported: #1 reason is because they don’t think people will believe them, due to prevalence of victim blaming myths (must have tempted them, worn certain clothes, b/c you were drunk, can’t be assaulted by your partner)

Myths

Perpetrators are strangers: 82% committed by acquaintances

It happens in public places: “. . . three in five (62% and 61% respectively) sexual assaults reported to police took place on private property” (Police-reported sexual assaults in Canada before and after #MeToo, 2016 and 2017).

People lie about assault all the time: false reporting % is between 2 and 10%, which is similar to the false reporting rate of other crimes (https://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/2012-03/Publications_NSVRC_Overview_False-Reporting.pdf).

They were drunk so they probably asked for it: you can’t give or get consent when you’re drunk, this is also reflected in the Canadian Criminal Code

They’ve slept around: doesn’t make a difference, and shouldn’t affect how we view the worth of people.

Impacts

MENTALShock, Disbelief, Confusion

PHYSICALPhysical Injuries, STIs/Pregnancy, Nausea

BEHAVIOURALProblems attending/concentrating at school and work, Lack of self agency/assertiveness, Sleep Problems,

EMOTIONALAngry, Fear, Guilt, Shame,

RELATIONAL/SOCIAL Lack of Trust, Isolation, Withdrawal

Consent

YES, because I want to and know exactly what is to come!” Often talk about sexual violence with no means no, but it’s important to remember that ONLY YES MEANS YES. “Uhm”, “not sure”, “maybe”, silence; these are not YES, so they must be considered a NO.

E.g. consent to kissing means that that is the only activity that is okay to do, and if one party wants to take it to the ‘next step’ then there must be consent for that too (i.e. taking off clothes).

Must be enthusiastic, freely given, conscious throughout a sexual experience (and non-sexual experiences as well… E.g. consent to hug or touch someone in a non-sexual way is important as well).

I also got a question for Saffron about SVAM, and that was what can one person do to help?

Great question!

If you are ever disclosed to:

Listen

Allow the survivor to talk about their experience without interruption, and when listening, give your full attention to the person with you. Listening can involve silence, and that’s okay. It gives the person you’re supporting time to find their words and express themselves. Resist the instinct to fill silence with conversation, instead, you can say encouraging things like “mhm”, “yes”, “I’m listening” to let them know that you are engaged. Let them choose the pace of the conversation.

When it is your time to talk, you can let them know that whatever they are feeling is okay, and it makes sense that they have been affected by what happened to them. Although it’s common to want to ask a lot of questions when supporting someone you care about, only ask questions that will clarify what the person is telling you. For example, “Do you want to tell me more about feeling _______?” Or, “How can I support you?” We also want to stay away from ‘why’ questions as they tend to blame or judge the survivor.

Believe

As mentioned earlier, many survivors are afraid that no one will believe them or that they will be blamed for what happened, so it is important to make it clear that we believe them.

We know that most sexual assaults (82%) are acquaintance sexual assaults – the survivor knows, and maybe even trusted, the individual who had assaulted them. It is important to remember that the clear majority of people are telling the truth about experiencing sexual violence, and that it can be very difficult to tell someone about what happened when the survivor is worried they won’t be believed. We can all do our part when we start by believing.

Support

Another thing you can do is to explore options with the person you are supporting.

Asking the person what they would like to do, rather than telling them what you think they should do, allows them to regain a sense of control and restore their choice after an experience where they had none.

And as a supporter, you don’t need to have all the answers! You may have questions of your own or aren’t sure what the next steps to take are. That’s what places like the Saffron Centre ad the below numbers and links are here for!


CASASC 24hr Crisis Line: Call or Text 1-866-956-1099

Alberta's OneLine: 1-866-403-8000

*Please refer to one of our previous blog posts: https://www.saffroncentre.com/post/what-to-do-if-you-re-in-an-abusive-situation-during-covid-19 for an longer and more detailed list of Albertan resources!

You might be thinking, what else can I do to help, e.g. if I am NOT disclosed to, but I want to help in my everyday life?

Be a mythbuster! If and when the topic comes up in conversation, and you’re feeling comfortable enough to do so, challenge the myths that exist! E.g. if someone talks about false reporting, you can let them know that the vast majority of survivors are telling the truth, and in fact, the false reporting rate for sexual violence is the same as any other crime. The more accurate information that is out there, the better!

We believe we can all take part in ending sexual violence, one interaction at a time. It’s not just about explicit violence. It’s the little things too. Every day, we have multiple opportunities to speak up, speak out, and challenge harmful attitudes, words, and behaviors.

What am I grateful for this week: YOU! Our amazing social media following and audience. All the work that we’re doing to create content and keep up engagement for SVAM is for you, and I appreciate the positive feedback on what we’ve put out so far. Thank you for staying engaged, staying at home, and being amazing.

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