Last Wednesday the President released a White House report entitled “Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action.” This report highlights the epidemic we are facing in our country with an estimated 22 million American women and 1.6 million men having been raped in their lifetime.
For the next several days, I suspect that most major media outlets will cover this story. News anchors and reporters will be shocked at the statistics. Bloggers, like myself, will ask the public to take notice. And then unfortunately, just as quickly as it came, I also suspect that the topic of sexual violence will float away from the headlines.
Imagine instead if the headline was “22 Million Women and 1.6 Million Men Have Been Assaulted By a Terrorist.” Or a headline reading: “1 in 5 Women in College Will Face a Deadly Disease.” I think we could all agree that there would not only be outrage but action and ongoing discussion and solution seeking by many.
This new report aims to restart the conversation about sexual violence and refocus efforts. I am hopeful that with the President’s backing US citizens will take notice of this life-changing issue to open dialogue and keep it in the forefront. As it will take that level of awareness to make the cultural shift needed to bring an end sexual violence.
One of the most powerful statements made within the report is:
“Sexual assault is pervasive because our culture still allows it to persist. According to the experts, violence prevention just can’t focus on the perpetrators and the survivors. It has to include everyone. And in order to put an end to this violence, we must as a nation see it for what it is: a crime. Not a misunderstanding, not a private matter, not anyone’s rights or any woman’s fault. And bystanders must be taught and emboldened to step in to stop it. We can only stem the tide of violence if we all do our part.”
So what is our part? How do we keep this national epidemic from fading into the shadows? How do we keep from “minding our own business”? Here’s a start:
- Read the report and share it with others.
- Contact your local sexual assault program and ask how you can be involved in working toward community solutions. Make a financial contribution.
- Contact your government officials. Let them know that sexual assault prevention and programming must be a priority – locally, regionally, and nationally.
- Insist that your local school district brings in qualified experts to present bystander education to your children, grandchildren and the children from your community.
- Speak out when law enforcement officials, judges, attorneys, school officials, and others, who minimize violence, refuse to hold perpetrators accountable.
- Talk to young people, males and females, about sexual violence. Encourage an open dialogue about victimization, responsibility, rights, consent, etc.
We can seize this opportunity to each do our part to end sexual violence. Let’s prevent the next 23.6 million Americans from having to face victimization. If we start the shift towards violence-free communities eventually we won’t just have to imagine a life free of the fear of sexual assault – we can live it.
This post originally appeared on the Huffington Post Impact Blog.