Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Every 73 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. And every 9 minutes, that victim is a child.

Child Looking Sad

During Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), it's up to us to take a stand, educate ourselves and others, and help prevent sexual abuse.

The internet has become the new public square where we connect with romantic partners, friends and family, co-workers, and strangers alike. That's why this year's theme is: We Can Build Safe Online Spaces.

man on virtual meeting

From dating apps, virtual meetings, chats, video calls, and interactions on social media, most communication now takes place through screens. This month learn how you can practice consent online, keep the kids in your life safe from abuse, as well as facilitate and participate in respectful online communities.

The reality is that the digital world is not separate from in-person spaces. They both make up the world we live in, and the impact of our actions can be just the same. If you wouldn’t do or say something to someone in person, then you shouldn’t say it to them online.

You can help provide healing to survivors and provide education to our communities by making a donation today. Here are some ways your generosity improves lives.

  • $100 helps provide legal support and court advocacy to survivors of sexual assault.
  • $65 provides on-site rape exams as an alternative to the ER.
  • $50 helps cover counseling and support groups throughout the year.
  • $35 helps provide hospital advocacy and support to survivors.
  • $20 helps with awareness efforts to prevent sexual violence in our community.
  • $15 provides clothing care packages when victim’s clothes are kept as evidence.

Can survivors count on you today?

Peace River Center Victim Services 24-Hour Sexual Assault Crisis Line: 863.413.2707 or toll-free 877.688.5077

Showing your support is easy! Wear Teal + Register for a Webinar + Wear Denim

Victim Services building from outsidePlus during SAAM learn about Peace River Center's Rape Recovery Program and the important role it plays in helping survivors in Polk, Hardee, and Highlands County. For example, did you know a compassionate and knowledgable PRC advocate responds to local hospitals within one-hour of a reported rape? Because of support from caring individuals like YOU our advocates are able to provide a clothing care package as well as guidance, support, and legal assistance if desired. No matter whether the survivor reports the rape or not, no matter how long ago a survivor experienced the abuse, Peace River Center Victim Services is there to help. We offer support groups, relocation assistance, and much more.

Explore the resources below about safety in the digital space. Donate to provide healing and hope to survivors. Join us for a webinar. Or let others know you want to stop sexual abuse by wearing teal on April 6 or denim on April 28, snapping a selfie, and sharing across your social media channels. Be sure to use #saam21prc so we can reshare your photos.

More Than Awareness, It's About Prevention

Though incredibly important, Sexual Assault Awareness Month is about more than awareness — our ultimate goal is prevention. The driving forces behind sexual violence are hard to see but are often based on attitudes, norms, and social systems that support the unequal treatment of certain groups over others. Behaviors or actions like sexist jokes, victim-blaming language, or comments may seem like not that big of a deal, but they contribute to the same way of thinking that fuels violence. Although they only reflect the point of view of the person making them, their public visibility normalizes not taking sexual abuse seriously.

The reality is that the digital world is not separate from in-person spaces. They both make up the world we live in, and the impact of our actions can be just the same. If you wouldn’t do or say something to someone in person, then you shouldn’t say it to them online. Here are some ways to step in when you observe harmful behaviors online:

Report inappropriate content.

If you see sensitive or violent content on a social media platform, you can report it to the platform it was shared on (Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, etc.) in order to have it flagged or removed. Different platforms have their own guidelines on what counts as inappropriate and what actions they will take, but that process starts with you making a report.

Speak out when you see harmful comments.

When you see comments that blame victims for what happened to them, you can respond by refocusing accountability on the perpetrator. While you might not change the mind of the person who left the comment, others will see that not everyone agrees with them.

Show your support to victims of online harassment.

Check-in with the person who the comments have been directed at to show your support. Or consider volunteering to be a moderator in certain contexts to help prevent future harassment.

Keeping Children and Teens Safe Online

Young Asian girl on tablet with headphones in.As our use and dependence on technology grows, younger audiences have begun using the internet, online games, chats, and video calls more frequently. While these are often opportunities for kids and teens to learn, they can also be opportunities for abuse to happen. It is important that the caring adults in kids’ lives know how to recognize when abuse may be happening online or in-person and how to prevent it.

Follow our social media accounts (@prcvictimservices) during April to learn more ways you can keep the children and teens in your life safe online. Additional information can be found at NSVRC and End Violence Against Children, and Internet Matters.

A victim in an abusive situation at home, especially a child, may not be able to directly communicate about what is happening to them. Caring adults outside of the home, such as neighbors, extended family, friends, educators, and employers can look out for red flags that may indicate domestic or sexual violence.

Possible red flags that may indicate abuse:

  • Yelling in the background of video or phone calls
  • Behavior changes such as social withdrawal, difficulty concentrating, or loss of interest in usual activities
  • Unexplained absences
  • Complaints about soreness, pain, or trouble sleeping

From apps to online dating websites, there are many ways people are connecting online. Although you aren’t talking face-to-face, you should always consider how your actions might make another person feel and ask questions if you don’t know.

Teens on cell phones and devices

Consent is required in the digital realm too!

Consent gives us a framework for how to communicate boundaries and understand how our choices impact others. Consent takes place when someone gives permission for something to happen or agrees to do something. When you ask someone for consent, they need to know specifically what they’re agreeing to, so make sure what you’re asking is clear. Consent also needs to be voluntary, so those who are agreeing should be doing so freely and 100% by their own choosing, without pressure, guilt, or coercion from the person asking. Unlike in-person interactions, there may not be body language cues, like eye contact, in the digital space. Those are important and can indicate how someone is really feeling. That's why when we communicate online, it’s essential to develop new ways to recognize others’ boundaries and give them the space to recognize our boundaries as well. Let's get away from making assumptions and instead clearly communicating our boundaries and asking questions when we’re not sure. That way we can create a pathway to more respectful online spaces.

Ask + Respect

Ask permission before sending explicit messages or texts. Then be sure to respect the decisions of others once you ask. It’s never okay to coerce or pressure someone to send photos or record sexual acts. If someone says no after you ask for digital consent, respect their choice and move on.

Real Life Boundaries

Understand everyone has boundaries around meeting up in real life. If you’ve met online or on an app, make sure you both agree on the next steps and feel safe and comfortable with meeting up in person. Regardless of what others expect, everyone has the right to decide what is best for them and to act on those values.

Ask Every Time

Getting digital consent is important every time — even if your partner agreed to something before, they are not obligated to agree to do it again. Consent isn’t only important when it comes to sex — there are everyday ways we negotiate our needs with the needs of others. Everyday consent means we communicate our boundaries and ask others for their perspective before taking actions that impact them.