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April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). While SAAM is entering its second decade, the history of SAAM reaches much longer back. Movements for social change and equality began during the civil rights era, bringing about the wide social activism which occurred in the 1970s. During this time, support for sexual assault survivors grew, along with an increased awareness of sexual violence. After years of sexual violence prevention observances and events, SAAM became nationally observed in 2001, resulting with a teal ribbon being used as a symbol for sexual assault awareness.

This year, the theme of SAAM centers around the “We Can Build” campaign. Sexual harassment, assault, and abuse can happen anywhere, including in online spaces. Practicing digital consent, intervening when harmful content is posted, and stepping in when adverse behaviors occur, helps to build online spaces that are respectful and safe.

The internet is a place where friends, family, classmates, co-workers, and strangers can connect. In this digital age of social media, virtual meetings, online gaming, and dating apps, a vast amount of communication now takes place over the internet. This holds especially true over the past year, as the pandemic caused an unprecedented number of classrooms, meetings, and events to take place virtually. As technology continues to evolve and be a part of everyday lives, the awareness of the ways in which it may be used to harass, threaten, and commit abuse (to victims of all ages) has grown as well. As younger and younger audiences are beginning to use the internet, awareness of such is more important than ever.

Sexual abuse and harassment can occur online and may include any type of sexual harassment, exploitation, or abuse that takes place through screens. Just because this form of abuse takes place virtually, it doesn’t make their impact on the victim any less real.

Some forms of online harassment and abuse may violate the policies of workplaces, schools, or online platforms (Instagram, Zoom, etc.), while others are more serious in nature and are considered criminal acts. No matter the severity, the impacts can be deeply harmful and have lasting impacts. In addition, due to the nature of the internet, images and videos of abuse can be shared, reshared and circulated widely online. This only adds to the potential revictimization of survivors. However, there are ways to keep online spaces safer for adults and children alike. (continued on page 2)

Tips for Employers, Schools, and Leaders:

  • Take steps to secure online spaces from outside threats.
  • Implement policies that promote equality and respect.
  • Provide a way that victims can make a report of harassment or abuse if someone’s behavior is making them uncomfortable.
  • Establish parameters around appropriate ways to communicate with one another.

Tips for Individuals:

  • Step in (if appropriate/safe) or speak out when seeing problematic or harmful comments, or content.
  • Advocate for leaders, employers, online platforms, and others to take meaningful action against those who perpetrate abuse/harassment online.
  • Report inappropriate, sensitive, illegal or violent content on websites or social media platforms in order to have it flagged or removed.
  • Show your support to victims of online harassment. If appropriate and safe, check in with them.

Tips for Parents:

  • Monitor your child’s online usage. Set boundaries as needed and appropriate.
  • Be on the lookout for red flags such as: conversations which are not age appropriate, suggestive or sexual comments, secretive relationships, links to suggestive images or pornography, requests for photographs, and sending money or online gifts (such as in gaming apps).
  • Install cell phone and computer monitoring apps, which can limit how much time your child spends online and may restrict access to certain websites or apps.

Another way online spaces can be kept safer is by practicing digital consent. Consent occurs when someone gives permission for something to happen. Digital consent is much the same when it comes to sexual activities that take place through screens (such as “sexting,” sending sensitive photos, etc.) Although virtual conversations do not take place face-to-face, consent still needs to be communicated along the way.

Digital Consent May Be Practiced By:

  • Asking permission before sending/initiating sensitive or sexual messages, texts, or videos.
  • Respecting the decisions of others once you ask.
  • Agreeing on the next steps for meeting up in-person. If you’ve met online or on an app, make sure you both feel safe and comfortable prior to meeting in-person.

This April, and throughout the year, you can model respectful online communication, create safer virtual spaces and experiences, and practice consent online. Learn more about the “We Can Build” campaign and Sexual Assault Awareness Month at www.nsvrc.org. If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault or harassment (including virtual), please contact Someplace Safe at 1.800.974.3359.

On April 28th, Support Survivors of Sexual Violence by Wearing Jeans on Denim Day.

Why Denim? The campaign was originally triggered after a ruling by the Italian Supreme Court in the 1990s. This ruling overturned a rape conviction due to the justices’ belief that since the victim was wearing tight jeans, she must have helped her attacker remove them, thereby implying consent. The following day, the women of the Italian Parliament came to work wearing jeans, in solidarity with the victim. Since then, wearing jeans on Denim Day has become a worldwide symbol against the misconceptions about sexual violence. Anyone can join the annual Denim Day movement and show support for survivors of sexual violence.

Participating on April 28th is easy. Check out the options below:

  • Wear your favorite pair of jeans wherever you go! Get your whole office, group or family involved.
  • Create awareness for Denim Day on social media by posting your participation photos and using hashtag #denimday. Check out our social media for shareable posts and images.
  • Contact your local Someplace Safe office or email newsletter@someplacesafe.info to request your free Denim Day flyers and stickers to help spread the word.

Dollars for Denim Campaign. You may also support Someplace Safe and local survivors by making a Dollars for Denim contribution.

Coordinate a Dollars for Denim collection at your workplace. Consider donating a few dollars for the “privilege” of wearing jeans for the day.

Mail your Dollars for Denim gift to your local Someplace Safe office or send to: Someplace Safe, P.O. Box 815, Fergus Falls, MN 56538-0815. Donations may also be made at someplacesafe.info/donate (select Denim Day as the designation) or via text message by sending the text “@sps” to 52014.

Create a “Denim Day Team” and raise funds and support for Someplace Safe using your social media contacts. Start your Denim Day Team and learn more at: betterunite.com/SomeplaceSafe-denimday.

Contact newsletter@someplace.info for more information. To learn more about Denim Day, visit www.denimday.info.

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