Fifty-one per month. That is the average number of reported sexual assaults that have occurred in Denver so far this year. This number, while staggering, likely does not reflect reality and the …
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Fifty-one per month.
That is the average number of reported sexual assaults that have occurred in Denver so far this year. This number, while staggering, likely does not reflect reality and the number of assaults that have occurred is higher. According to the Department of Justice, only 31% of sexual assaults are reported to law enforcement.
This is a wake-up call. As a community, we must come together and work toward ending sexual violence. Here are three things we can all do to build a more caring community that is safer for everyone.
Make prevention a priority
Teaching youth about consent is imperative to preventing sexual violence. Consent education teaches young people what qualifies as consent — consent is not the absence of “no,” rather, it is the presence of an enthusiastic, uncoerced “yes.” It also teaches young people to recognize sexually inappropriate and violent behaviors, while promoting healthy, respectful relationships among young people that are in line with their own values and empowers them to communicate these values. These are lessons that young people will carry with them throughout their lives. If you are a parent or caregiver, ask your youth’s school to incorporate consent education.
We can all also harness our own power as active bystanders to prevent sexual violence. When you hear inappropriate comments or language that normalizes sexual violence, speak up and gently correct the speaker. Likewise, if you see a potentially risky situation, safely intervene. For instance, if you are out for drinks with friends and notice someone aggressively pursuing another, interrupt that interaction by telling the individual that is being pursued that you need to talk with them in private. Then, once they are away from the aggressor, ask if everything is alright and if there is anything else you can do to help.
Always start by believing
Sexual assault is the only crime where the victim becomes the accused. It is common for victims to be asked about their attire, level of intoxication and sexual history. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), this victim-blaming contributes to the silencing of survivors of sexual assault, which means they may not seek support from loved ones or centers like The Blue Bench — compounding the trauma from the assault and hindering healing. Moreover, the perpetrator of the assault is not held accountable for their harmful actions.
When we actively support and believe survivors, this paradigm shifts. When we start by believing survivors, they are more likely to seek systems of support and are more likely to seek justice. Most importantly, the survivor of the sexual assault receives the care that they need to heal from the assault. Additionally, the perpetrator is more likely to be held accountable for their actions. This accountability signifies a community with a zero tolerance for sexually violent behaviors — a message that we must send to would-be perpetrators.
Get involved in the movement to end sexual violence
We all play a role in ending sexual violence. In addition to making prevention a priority and always starting by believing, you can deepen your involvement by supporting organizations like The Blue Bench.
At The Blue Bench, we envision a future where there are zero assaults per month.
With a strong community by our sides, we know that this vision will one day become a reality.
Megan Carvajal is the executive director of The Blue Bench, metro Denver’s only sexual assault prevention and survivor support center. To learn more about The Blue Bench, including volunteer opportunities, or to donate, visit https://thebluebench.org.
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