We hear it all the time, a certain month is associated with a certain issue or cause and suddenly it becomes National (fill in the blank) Month. In the Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention field, we are very familiar with this phenomenon. February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Yet, with these issues being highlighted during specific months each year, how far have we truly gotten when it comes to reaching the masses with not only awareness messaging, but prevention-based messaging? Does the common, everyday American citizen have an understanding of the true impact these issues have on us all and more importantly, do we all have a desire to learn how to prevent domestic and sexual violence so as to create a world in which they no longer exist?
It needs to become obvious that domestic and sexual violence are widespread issues that affect us all. Even more importantly, it needs to become obvious that each of us has a stake in preventing domestic and sexual violence. Each of us CAN work to prevent these issues. Involvement in prevention efforts can range from simple and easy to difficult and complex. The point is, there needs to be a movement afoot to recognize the fact that domestic and sexual violence are EVERYONE’S business, and EVERYONE must work toward the goal of erasing these issues from our global landscape.
This year, to mark the 15th anniversary of V-Day (an annual movement to draw attention to issues of sexual and domestic violence), a new movement has been born. One Billion Rising has become a global movement, a challenge of sorts, to all who want to end intimate partner violence. The slogan of the movement allows for a new perspective to be gained when we consider domestic and sexual violence. One Billion Rising states:
ONE IN THREE WOMEN ON THE PLANET WILL BE RAPED OR BEATEN IN HER LIFETIME.
ONE BILLION WOMEN VIOLATED IS AN ATROCITY
ONE BILLION WOMEN DANCING IS A REVOLUTION
Let’s think of this message from a prevention standpoint. Yes, on a global level, one-in-three women will be victimized during her lifetime. Yes, that equates to one billion victims across the globe. That number is staggering, and it certainly represents an atrocity which takes place each and every day. However, let’s consider the last line of One Billion Rising’s statement—consider the force, momentum, and power behind one billion people who are united to stand against the presence of domestic and sexual violence in the world; people who are committed to take active measures to prevent these issues. That indeed, is a revolution. One Billion Rising has challenged the world for a day to draw attention to these issues and begin the revolution by engaging in dance because, as they say, “Dancing insists we take up space. It has no set direction but we go there together. It’s dangerous, joyous, sexual, holy, disruptive. It breaks the rules. It can happen anywhere at anytime with anyone and everyone. It’s free. No corporation can control it. It joins us and pushes us to go further. It’s contagious and it spreads quickly. It’s of the body. It’s transcendent” (www.onebillionrising.org).
But how do we continue on? How do we take concepts such as One Billion Rising and employ them in our daily lives, with our own family, friends, coworkers, etc.? Consider this, the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey of 2010 found that in the United States, one in five women and one in 71 men will be a victim of sexual assault during their lifetime. Additionally, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence states one in four women in the U.S. will be a victim of domestic violence during her lifetime. Yet, we tend to get so bogged down in numbers and lose their significance or impact.
Let’s look at these numbers or statistics through a prevention lens. One in five women (20%) and one in 71 men will be a victim of sexual assault during their lifetime. Those are tough numbers to read. However, what gets lost in those numbers is the fact that four out of five women and 70 out of 71 men can do something to prevent sexual violence. We never quite look at numbers in this way, do we? If one in four women is a victim of domestic violence, then three out of four women can do something to prevent domestic violence.
So where do we start? How do we begin addressing the behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs surrounding these issues? How do we begin deconstructing social norms which lead to an overall environment in which domestic and sexual violence are allowed to continue? Here are some things we can each do to begin working toward a world free of domestic and sexual violence…
(based on publications from mencanstoprape.org and menaspeacemakers.org)
- Educate yourself-begin to understand the true impact of these issues on all people and share your knowledge and insight with those around you.
- Focus on communication in sexual situations. Listening to the other person, stating desires clearly, and asking when a situation is unclear will make relationships safer and healthier. Create a space to enthusiastically say yes.
- Take a look around the waiting room/reception area at your workplace. Does the reading material promote healthy messages about men, women, and relationships? If not, change your subscriptions.
- Get involved-join a community group or movement working to prevent domestic and sexual violence. Make a difference.
- Speak out-you will hear attitudes and see behaviors that degrade women and promote a culture of violence. When a friend tells a rape joke, let them know you don’t find it funny. Use your voice.
- Create and enforce policies in your place of business which make it unacceptable for employees to display crude or sexist images/jokes in their workspace.
- Learn about the ways sexual and domestic violence affect the lives of men. Ask men how it would feel to be seen as a potential rapist or abuser and how they’d feel if a woman they care about was assaulted.
- Review how the news media reports sexual and domestic assaults. Do they use language that holds the alleged offender accountable? Do they protect the identity of the victim? Is the story sensationalized?
- Create and enforce policies at your workplace that promote equality and respect for all people.
- Ask women how the fear of rape or abuse in a relationship affects their daily lives and whether they know someone who has been victimized. Listen and learn from them about the impact of these issues and how to stop it.
We all have a vested interest in ending domestic and sexual violence and creating a world free from abuse. If you are interested in learning more about prevention or would like additional resources, please contact the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center at 701-293-7273.