Updated: May 5
EPISODE 11 | SEXUAL ASSAULT AWARENESS MONTH
During the month of April, the FRC joins national efforts in raising awareness on sexual assault. The FRC understands that abuse and violence can come in different shapes and forms. It is important to recognize that sexual assault can touch the lives of many, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, age or race.
We must raise awareness to educate communities on how to prevent and give hope to those who have been impacted. Through awareness we give a voice and create safe and equitable spaces where every person is treated with dignity, love and respect.
At the FRC, we have established strong partnerships with community organizations, that can provide help. For this month’s episode, we had a touching but insightful conversation with Sandra Garcia, Executive Director of Center Against Sexual and Family Violence (CASFV).
Throughout our conversation we speak on the common stigmas that surround sexual assault and the importance on educating our youth on the matter. We also discuss how we can move from awareness to action that can transcend and make a huge impact in our society.
Our FRC is proud of all the partnerships we have established since our opening. Our community partners provide an array of non-traditional therapies, support groups and workshops. Center Against Sexual and Family Violence (CASFV) has provided valuable information to our participants. Through their workshops they teach our participants and community members how to build stronger families and relationships.
As an Outreach Coordinator for the FRC, I’ve had the opportunity to join some of their sessions and as I listen to their material, I realize the importance and impact this information can have. From red flags to prevention, their workshops give the right tools and education needed as we establish relationships of all types in our lifetime.
STIGMAS SURROUNDING SEXUAL ASSAULT
In the recent years, we have seen big advocacy movements come through our society that speak on sexual violence and assault. For example, the “MeToo” Movement or the now popular Women’s March during January. As I see women, men, families and students, raise their voices through social media or with a powerful poster, I appreciate how far we’ve come.
I now see mothers having honest conversations with their daughters and sons. I see men finding strength in their vulnerability. I see communities collaborating to build deeper education systems. Yet, I also see questioning and lack of acceptance.
There are many stigmas that may pause this strong community growth and evolvement. One of them being, lack of belief towards a declaration. Unfortunately, when a victim comes forward, this individual is welcomed with the following interrogative language-- “Where were you?”, “What were you wearing?”, “Did you drink?”, “Why didn’t you say anything sooner?” and the list can go on.
Another common stigma is that men do not suffer from sexual assault. However, the CDC reports that 1 in 3 men have experienced sexual violence involving physical contact. Sexual violence is an epidemic that does not discriminate against gender.
Often times, because of these stigmas, victims of sexual violence might feel hesitant of speaking up or making a legal declaration against the abuser. However, we must open spaces of acceptance and empathy where anyone can feel safe and share their story.
In preparation for my conversation with Sandra, flashback
s of my high school years came to mind. I pictured my friends sitting around the lunch table, anxiously talking about it was finally time to join that “talk-of-mouth sex-ed” class.
One class, one permission slip signed by our mothers and one uncomfortable teacher.
According to Sandra, having open conversations with youth can give the proper education needed to acknowledge red flags. “We must give the opportunity to our youth to be heard,” she shared during our conversation. “We tend to minimize their concerns.”
“Some parents might feel hesitant to expose their kids to any type of curricular that has the world ‘sex’ in it,” said Sandra. “However, they are getting the information one way or another. It is better if they get their information from a reliable source.”
In addition to providing the accurate information, we must also teach from a young age the meaning of setting boundaries. In a predominantly Hispanic community, setting boundaries or saying “no” to certain situations, might be difficult. Yet, according to Sandra it can start with asking one simple question-- “is it okay?”
Sandra shared a couple of examples; “Is it okay if I come in?” or “Is it okay if I share this picture of you on social media?” Allowing children to find power in the word, “no” teaches them the importance of consent.
Healing can start in many ways. I’ve shared before that my healing journey started through guided meditation. I joined the session with no expectations, I had no idea the self- mirror I was going to face that day. My healing began when I acknowledged my pain, grief, anger and sorrow.
As I walk through this journey, I’ve learned that mental health is not about finding the right answers that will make you feel better, rather is having
the rights tools needed when hardship arises. As we have mentioned before, there’s no expiration date to a healing journey.
I’ve also learned the importance of finding the right help that aligns to your needs. Maybe talk therapy is not for you but, therapeutic writing is. Also, having a strong connection to your professional counselor is equally as important.
CALL TO ACTION
Now, how do we create change out of that awareness? How can we go beyond a social media post? How can we take actions that can actually transcend and impact the lives of others? By opening spaces where anyone can feel free to share their story without judgment. Speaking up about these experiences can
be difficult, therefore, if you come across anyone who is ready to speak up, we encourage you to listen to their story without questioning and an empathic heart.
If you or anyone you might know has suffered from sexual violence, please know that there’s help for you. You are not alone in this path.