April is Sexual Assault Awareness month (SAAM), the goal of SAAM is to raise public awareness of the issue of sexual assault and educate our community on how we can all play a part in prevention.
This year, the theme is “I Ask”, which encourages everyone to put consent into practice.
Sexual assault is a serious and widespread problem, but the good news is that prevention is possible, and it is happening.
It is our mission at Gippsland Centre Against Sexual Assault to help build a strong, safe and healthy Gippsland to reduce the prevalence of sexual violence. We do this through education, advocacy and community development. These initiatives aim to combat the issues of power, inequality and disrespect and encourage safe, healthy and respectful relationships.
Too often, our society sends the message that sexual assault, harassment, and abuse are caused by an individual person’s choices and failings — that of the person who has been harmed or the perpetrator. We should never blame a person for what happened to them — sexual assault and abuse are actions that one person chooses to inflict on another.
We need to hold individuals who commit abuse accountable, but we can’t stop there when it comes to ending sexual assault altogether. Focusing solely on individual perpetrators and instances of sexual assault, harassment, and abuse is often easier than facing the reality that this type of violence is widespread and common, and the driving forces behind it are hard to see.
Everyone’s beliefs, values, and behaviours are continually shaped by the world around them — by unwritten rules on how to behave, laws, policies, and pop culture. For instance, weak policies or lack of accountability for those who have committed sexual assault can lead to an increased risk for perpetration. This means our efforts to stop sexual assault before it happens must go beyond changing individuals. We must improve expectations for how we interact with one another, strengthen policies to support survivors, and promote safety throughout communities.
This April, Gippsland CASA had planned to meet you at local cafes across Gippsland to have conversations about consent and how collectively we can make a clear and concrete contribution to the prevention of sexual violence. By, asking for consent, respecting consent and teaching others about sexual consent.
Instead, we will take these conversations online, you will see information, posters, activities and images all themed “I Ask” for the month of April. We know that one month isn’t enough, that’s why all year, every year, our prevention team is dedicated to this message and encourages you to join us.
For more information on understanding consent- see handouts below