How Can You Help Eliminate Sexual Abuse?
During Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month this April, learn how to protect yourself and a loved one against sexual abuse.
By Survivor and Advocate: Dr. Autumn Dae Miller
In America, a person is sexually assaulted every 68 seconds, and one in every four children assigned female at birth has survived sexual abuse before age 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). This April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month and National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and there is no better time than now to talk about how YOU can help eliminate sexual abuse.
The Office for Victims of Crime states that over two-thirds of all transgender and nonbinary individuals have been sexually assaulted, with much higher rates for those with disabilities.
Sexual abuse occurs when someone is coerced or forced to engage in sexual activity without consent, including areas not involving your genitalia or “bathing suit areas.” Sexual abuse can occur without touching another person and as part of a hate crime based on someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
The first and most impactful step toward eliminating sexual abuse is prevention, and to do that, we must:
Know the facts about sexual abuse.
Eliminate the concept of “stranger danger” as the overarching way to teach safety because most sexual abuse perpetrators are people known to the survivor, including family, friends, and neighbors. Sexual abuse can happen to anyone, no matter your age, faith, race, ethnicity, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, job title, income, or education, and anyone can be a survivor.
Support all human rights, including consent, privacy, and boundaries.
How many times have we ignored a child’s “no?” By doing this, we invalidate their “no” and teach them that it has no value. How many times have we wiped a child’s nose without asking or forcing them to kiss a relative? By doing this, we show them that they don’t have the right to set boundaries and that we need to take the time to ask permission before touching someone.
Taking the time to practice awareness.
We begin practicing mindfulness with our actions, and this is how we learn to become aware and recognize how we respond to others without allowing their feelings and actions to impact our emotional state. This helps to avoid codependency and helps to work toward attuning to others and recognizing potential dangers.
Prioritizing mental health.
We need to recognize that everyone has mental health; just like we need to nourish our physical selves, we need to feed our mental selves too. People who are not emotionally healthy are more vulnerable to negative influences and are less likely to recognize a lack of safety.
Creating opportunities for accessible and developmentally appropriate sexuality education for all.
Comprehensive sexuality education is the number one tool to prevent sexual abuse. By teaching children about their body parts, sexual behaviors, safety techniques, sexual identities, healthy relationships, and fantasy versus reality, we help them armor themselves against sexual abuse. Knowledge is power.
Learning the signs of grooming and potential perpetrator behaviors.
Learn the signs of grooming behaviors, as they are practical tools that perpetrators have used to gain power and control over others by isolating them emotionally and physically. Someone might be being groomed if they start getting gifts for no reason, spends excess time with one person, or have secrets or inside jokes with a person. The point of grooming is to demonstrate that this individual is the only person who truly cares about them, and it keeps the target feeling alone with only the perpetrator to turn to for support.
We can eliminate sexual abuse if we all take the time to work on our prevention skills and support others in doing the same. Ignoring sexual abuse only gives potential perpetrators the ability to abuse others. There is no better time than now to do something!
Want to learn more about KenCrest’s Sexuality Support Services? Click the link below!