For 2022, the theme is Building Safe Online Spaces Together
During SAAM month, we take time to honor the voices and experiences of victims and survivors. The month is also when we concentrate effort on educating the public.
Did you know that in 2017, Pew Research Center found that 41% of Americans have been subject to online harassment? And, that 66% have witnessed online sexual harassment?
Online sexual assault can be any type of sexual harassment, exploitation, or abuse that takes place through screens. The 2021 Pew study identified six key ways people are assaulted online. This includes:
- Purposeful embarrassment
- Offensive name calling
- Sexual harassment
- Sustained harassment
- Physical threats
In the four years between the studies, the type of assault has become more serious. For example, sustained harassment, stalking, and physical threats. There was a clinically significant increase in politics as a motivator for being targeted for sexual assault. About two-thirds of adults have experiences online sexual harassment, with the highest population being adults ages 18 – 29. Sixty-eight percent of folks who identify in the LGBTQ+ community report being victims of online sexual harassment as compared to 39% of those outside the community.
Preventing Online Sexual Assault
Just how can we prevent online sexual assault? According to NVSRC, we prevent online assault by making our online environments safe. This falls on the hands of leaders and companies that provide online services, such as social media. They need to put policies in place for how to address sexual (and non-sexual) harassment and take allegations seriously. As a community, we need to make our voices stand out and heard. Every voice helps push larger organizations to take steps. Silence is their friend!
Education As a Form of Prevention
Think about diverse ways to get the word out. School and workplace education can reach a lot of folks. Check in occasionally. Ask for accountability to act. Maybe, even supporting individual action steps through an incentive in the workplace. Townships, villages, and cities can offer education and advocacy opportunities as well.
After The Assault
Harassment and bullying have long-term impact on its victims. We know they suffer from depression, anxiety, and suicidal tendencies. If you have been following my blog, you might remember that in August of 2020, I read Chanel Miller’s memoir. Chanel’s experience was in-person; however, the impact on her is shared by many survivors. Moving through the trauma of the assault, and then getting help legally, emotionally, psychologically, and academically/occupationally, can take years.
There are several types of resources to help. You can find in-person and virtual options, including education and advocacy, support groups, and ways to find psychologists, therapists, and organizations that are ON YOUR SIDE! I highly encourage folks to visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) website.
NSVRC provides for all of our needs from prevention/education to finding help. We are all in the position to help in some way.
- If that involves sharing this blog as a resource for others, you have done enough.
- If you have confronted someone when you hear negative comments about another person or sexual assault in general, you have done enough.
- If you have been a sober buddy, you have done enough.
- If you have listened to a “no” and made sure to get a “yes,” you have done what is expected.
- If you believe someone when they tell you they have been assaulted, you have done enough.
- If you go to the hospital with someone, you have done enough.
- If you help someone get counseling, you have done enough.
- If you help someone find legal counsel, you have done enough.
- If you can listen when they need to talk, you have done enough.
- If you go to court with them, you have done enough.
Yes, we need to do better as a community and country. Do what is in your capacity and bandwidth to do. If everyone takes those steps, we will be doing better!