The Importance of Building Awareness
Be dedicated to addressing sexual abuse, sexual assault and related violence. Network and liaise throughout communities to create an awareness of the impact of sexual abuse, sexual assault and violence. These are just two goals that we aim to achieve through our programs and services. They play a huge part of why facilitators spend so much time educating students in schools, why staff attend workshops to further develop their skill base and deepen their knowledge, and why events are held within our community. For years, I’ve wanted to start a blog for work; what a great way to write about the things that matter to our Centre and share it with the community. Building awareness about sexual violence is one of the biggest stepping stones in creating change and in prevention of this crime.
As I mulled over my thoughts for the first blog post, I kept coming back to why we were doing this. Sure, it makes sense to link it with the launch of our new website and two new programs that we have been dreaming about for years but, it also just seems time. The last few years have seen a shift in sexual violence. More people are talking about it, there is significant coverage in the media, individuals are speaking their minds and standing up for survivors, busting myths and educating on victim-blaming statements. I could write for pages and paragraphs about why I feel it’s important to be aware of sexual violence and its’ impacts. Our staff could debate with you, share statistics and real life experiences about how prevalent this issue is. The thing is, we live and breathe this every day. We are immersed in the lives of survivors, young and old, hear their stories, see their pain and support their healing. That sort of experience and depth of understanding can truly come from being a part of this field. What I was interested in knowing and what I felt would resonate best with the community at large, is why YOU feel it’s important. So, I asked. I asked family members, friends, and acquaintances, both male and female, different ages and from across Canada, the following question:
“Why should people know about sexual assault or abuse?”
I’ve got to say, their answers were inspiring and filled me with hope that change is possible in regards to sexual violence. The main answer I received from most of my “participants” was that knowing about this issue meant that if it happened to someone, they would know where to go for help. It’s that simple. Many survivors don’t know who they can talk to about their assault, where to turn or even identify that it was an assault. They may feel alone, confused, scared or embarrassed. For survivors and their support people, knowing where to turn to in a crisis is a step that can impact the rest of their journey.
Second to the above, participants felt that knowing about sexual violence meant that someone would know if/when it was happening to them. Children who have experienced sexual abuse often don’t know what is happening to them or don’t have the proper language to tell someone. Education and awareness programs that go into the schools are often met with disclosures from children as they are able to name what has been happening to them. One participant stressed that our children, both boys and girls, need to be educated at a young age. Encouraging our children to have knowledge and awareness on tough topics is a good thing. Understanding dynamics of communication, boundaries and healthy relationships…the list goes on.
This brings us to the next reason about why people need to know about sexual violence – to understand the difference between a healthy and abusive relationship. Understanding this difference allows individuals to make choices about how they want to be treated and how they will treat the ones they love.
Awareness means survivors know it is not their fault, the community will support and understand that blame and shame should not be placed on the survivor, regardless of clothing, actions leading up to the assault or gender. The onus of the crime needs to be placed squarely on the shoulders of the person who perpetrated it.
Awareness means that sexual abuse will not be tolerated.
Awareness means that the more we know about sexual violence, the better support survivors will feel throughout counselling and the justice system. A common habit with tough issues is to not talk about it. If we don’t talk about something, then somehow it didn’t happen.
Awareness means keeping the conversation about sexual violence going. So here we are, keeping the conversation going. Our Centre is kicking off the Spring of 2016 with some big changes and everyone is excited. Check back every so often, grab a coffee and keep building awareness!