The issue of sexual violence has reached heightened awareness in the wake of the “Me Too” movement, and more and more people are wondering how they can make a difference. Whether you are showing your support for a survivor or helping someone better understand these issues, your voice is powerful and necessary in this conversation.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 67 men in the U.S have experienced rape, or attempted rape, at some point in their lives. It’s estimated 1 in 2 women have experienced sexual violence other than rape in their lifetime. Additionally, 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18. And most instances of rape go unreported. Chances are you know someone who has experienced sexual violence even if they haven’t told you.
Sexual violence is any type of unwanted sexual contact. It can include rape, sexual harassment, inappropriate touching, and sharing private images without permission. Anyone can experience sexual violence, including children, teens, adults, and senior. The vast majority of these crimes are at the hands of someone the victims know, such as an intimate partner, family member or friend, or an acquaintance. They may use coercion, manipulation, threats, or force to commit sexual violence.
In solidarity with communities across the nation, Oswego County Opportunities (OCO) Services to Aid Families (SAF) program is encouraging community members to use their voice to support survivors and speak out against victim blaming. As the domestic violence and rape crisis program for Oswego County, SAF served more than 500 victims and survivors of relationship abuse and sexual violence in 2017.
“We are in a watershed moment right now,” said SAF Community Response Coordinator Stacie France. “We hear about sexual violence on the news, on social media, and through the #Me Too movement. With the country focused on this very important issue, we have an unprecedented opportunity to improve understanding and change behaviors.”
SAF is collaborating with individuals, community partners, and businesses on a number of initiatives this April to raise awareness and support victims and survivors in our community. SAF’s annual Clothesline Project will be displayed in Canal Commons in Oswego for the entire month. The Clothesline Project will also be displayed in SUNY Oswego’s Campus Center and at Cayuga Community College’s Fulton Campus. This project is a national campaign in which those affected by abuse and violence decorate T-Shirts displaying messages that reflect the long-lasting impact of violence on their lives.
SAF will recognize National Denim Day on Wednesday, April 25. Denim Day is a movement to stand up for survivors and protest victim blaming and destructive attitudes that promote sexual violence. “We encourage individuals to take part in Denim Day by posting a picture on social media of themselves or a group wearing jeans,” added France. “Make a social statement with your fashion statement. Use the hashtags #OCODENIMDAY2018 and #DENIMDAY and share why you’re wearing jeans.” For more information on denim day, visit www.denimdayinfo.org.”
On Friday, April 27th, SAF will host a bar outreach event with the help of students and volunteers from the SUNY Oswego Campus. During this event, staff and volunteers will visit a variety of establishments along Bridge Street in the City of Oswego to engage bartenders and bar patrons about proper consent and services available to support victims and survivors of sexual violence. Additionally, the Oswego County Legislature will present a proclamation to SAF at their meeting on Thursday, April 12th at 7:00 p.m.
When communities do not collectively support victims, who come forward to seek justice, but instead blame, shame, or question the victim’s habits, clothing or intentions, the message sent to the public and perpetrators is that this type of behavior is acceptable in our community.
“Victims and survivors are listening to how we talk about these issues,” said France. “There are many ways to embrace one’s voice. Simply put, ask for consent, respect boundaries, and believe survivors. Practice everyday consent by asking permission and demonstrating that you respect personal boundaries. Help the children and individuals in your life feel safe by letting them embrace their own voices and make choices about their bodies. When you hear comments that blame victims or make light of sexual violence, speak up so others know you don’t agree. Hearing that you understand and believe survivors may help them feel safe.”
If you or someone you know is a survivor of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual violence, stalking, or elder abuse, please call the SAF Crisis Hotline at (315) 342-1600. The hotline is staffed by trained counselors and is available 24 hours. SAF is the domestic violence and rape crisis program for Oswego County and has provided crisis, supportive, advocacy and educational services throughout Oswego County for over 30 years.