A Conversation About Sexual Assault Awareness Month (+ A Film Sharing Women's Stories of Sexual Assault)

A closeup of small flower buds at Cleveland Botanical Gardens, some of out focus

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and we here at The She League want to share a few resources with you to learn more about the campaign for this year from The National Sexual Violence Resource Center: I Ask.

Talking About Consent

As a mother of a son, I am already thinking about ways to teach consent at a young age. It’s important for children to know what consent means, even before they know how it can apply to relationships. Teaching children that consent is “asking someone for their permission to do something and accepting their answer” is one way to get started on this important lesson. NSVRC has free resources on their website about how to ask for consent and how to teach consent early, along with more about consent and what it means. Once my son is a little older (well, a lot older—he’s only 8 1/2 months old now), I plan on incorporating consent into our daily lives.

Of course, consent is important for teenagers and even adults to learn and practice as well—many of us have a hard time saying no, or asking for permission for sexual activity from our partners. Planned Parenthood has a few tips for how to say “no” to sexual activity on their website.

Listening to Survivors

The first step to making a commitment to stand against sexual violence is to become aware of how prevalent it is. That’s why listening to the stories of survivors, and believing them as a default reaction is so crucial.

Recently, my husband Nick Kuhar—Chair of the Film Department at an all-boys high school—had his students participate in a project that opened their eyes to how common sexual violence is for all women. Labyrinth, a short documentary made by the teenage boys in his film class, centers around women sharing their experiences with misogyny, sexual harassment and assault. The film became the catalyst for a schoolwide programming shift: starting in fall 2019, every senior will receive sexual violence prevention training.

I wanted to share the final film—which was created in partnership with the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, featured at the Cleveland International Film Festival, and is continuing to get press—because it is so, so powerful. The presence of this film and its emotional impact has been a part of our family for over a year now since Nick first began developing the concept and coaching his 17 young filmmakers through the production. I’m proud of him and his commitment to sharing women’s stories, especially with young men.

Bystander Intervention

Another way to commit to standing against sexual violence is to train yourself in how to react when you are a bystander to it. RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization, has a helpful article which includes steps you can take to prevent sexual assault. The four steps can be remembered as the acronym C.A.R.E.:

  1. Create a distraction.

  2. Ask directly.

  3. Refer to an authority.

  4. Enlist others.

You can read more about this bystander intervention training on RAINN’s website.

There is much to be done when it comes to preventing sexual violence, but it’s a great step that so many victims are bravely coming forward with their stories. If you have been the victim of sexual violence, reach out to the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center (local) or call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE.

To participate in Sexual Assault Awareness Month through social media, use the following hashtags:

  • #SAAM — Use this hashtag throughout the month when posting about events or anything related to the campaign.

  • #IAsk — Add this hashtag when sharing consent-based messages from the campaign.

We’ll be sharing more content for SAAM on our Instagram this week.