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Sexual Assault Awareness month calls for dialogue

Gigi Cepeda and Sofia Snyder

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One out of every six American women has been the victim of attempted or completed rape in her lifetime, according to Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). One out of every nine girls under the age of 18 has experienced sexual assault or abuse at the hands of an adult, according to the same source. Look around at your classmates, your friends, your sisters — some of us are those women.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness month, and as the days of this month fly by, we ask you to take a few moments to reflect on the prevalence of sexual assault. Sexual violence has decreased by more than 50 percent since 1993, according to RAINN, but unfortunately, we have a long way to go until women and men alike can be safe. Girls our age are some of the people most at risk, so we must take a vested interest in the progress of sexual assault awareness.

All of us know someone who has been the victim of sexual assault. Whether you can think of a name or not, the truth is that someone in your life has been the victim of this disgusting crime. In this way, we have all been affected by sexual assault.

This month, we ask you to reach out to the loved ones who have been victims of sexual violence. These people are the key to change, so we must create a safe environment in which they are able to speak up and teach others about sexual assault.

We must listen to the survivors to learn how to best comfort someone who has gone through the trauma of sexual violence, and, while the conversation might be uncomfortable at first as one may feel intrusive, it is important that we recognize that victims want the support of their loved ones. Let them speak and tell their story, let them be a catalyst for future change, as you can take what you learn and educate others.

It is important to show emotional support to these people. You don’t need to do more than let them know you are there for them: let them know you are on their side as an ally in the battle of recovery they may be facing.

People freeze up and get scared when the words sexual assault come up. They don’t know how to act; we need to change this culture. We need to make sure that those words, those topics, aren’t an elephant in the room.

It is important for parents to have the conversation with their kids about consent and self advocacy. Not just daughters, but sons too should know what boundaries exist, how to communicate these personal boundaries and that it is okay to come forward if something has happened.

Whether it’s to ask questions or to come forward with their story, young people should know that they have a safe zone and someone, somewhere to turn to.

The #MeToo movement shows that victims are not alone, and this month further proves that. If you have been a victim of sexual assault, know that you have a community of people who have been through it and are trying to make a difference so that the future generations don’t have to feel ashamed.

For anyone that feels they don’t have a safe place to speak up, feels alone or just want more information, timesupnow.com was created by the leaders of the #MeToo movement in order to spread awareness. The campaign created a Legal Defense Fund where victims of sexual assault can go and get free legal advice and lawyers who will take on the cases pro bono.

So we ask you to say “Time’s Up” and be a part of the movement to end the kind of society where sexual assault is just a story heard everyday; where the shame in sexual assault falls only on the victims, and, like Oprah said, to create a world where nobody ever has to say #MeToo again.

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Sexual Assault Awareness month calls for dialogue