April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM): a time to support and uplift survivors, while spreading awareness about what sexual assault is and how we can end it. Safeline invites you to join us in our mission by starting with a little education.
What is sexual assault? Sexual assault and sexual violence can include: sexual acts (including oral sex) without consent, unwanted sexual touching, rape, sex with a minor, or any other sexual activities without valid consent. It can include sibling sexual abuse and incest. In addition, just because you are in a romantic relationship or married to someone does not mean that you automatically have consent for sexual activities. Communication is important to ensure that no one is being asked to do something they don’t want to do, and thus consent is required for healthy sexual activities. Sexual assault is never the fault of the victim–it is a choice from the perpetrator.
Consent includes words and physical actions to ensure that everyone is on the same page and freely agrees. Instead of an assumption of someone’s mental state or intentions, an example of asking for consent could be a question like “would you like to have sex?” with the answer being a “yes” (and not just the absence of a “no”). Consent includes a balance of power where both people are aware of the consequences and can say “no”. Is there access to protection against STIs and is birth control (if applicable) available? If there is a power imbalance, it may be difficult or impossible for someone to say no to certain activities, and thus it’s not true consent. “Consent” from someone underage is NOT true consent. The age of consent in Vermont is 16. Consent is also fluid. If an activity was consensual and then you or someone else decides that they don’t want to do something sexual, then that consent is withdrawn. Consent also means that nobody is under the influence of drugs or alcohol–anything that might mean that a “yes” in that moment isn’t really a yes. If you have questions about what is and isn’t consent, check out this article by RAINN.
If you have experienced sexual assault, you are not alone and it is not your fault. On average, there are 463,634 survivors of rape and sexual assault older than 12 in the United States every year. According to the NSVRC (National Sexual Violence Resource Center) and RAINN (the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), 81% of women and 43% of men reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment and/or assault in their lifetime, with bisexual women, lesbian women, and transgender folks having the highest rates of violence. At least 1 in 6 men have been sexually assaulted or abused in their lifetime. Most sexual assaults are perpetrated by an intimate partner or acquaintance–people who are trusted or loved.
We at Safeline are here for you too. If you, or someone you know, has experienced sexual assault or would like to learn more, please call our hotline 1-800-639-7233 (1-800-NEW-SAFE) or email us at email@example.com. You can also explore more resources and information on our website. We wish all of you a safe spring.