When learning about sexual violence and how it affects individuals, families and the community, it can often feel overwhelming. If you are a person who would never, ever force, trick, exploit or manipulate a person into unwanted sexual activity, you may feel like there really is nothing else you can do to prevent sexual violence from occurring.

The theme of this year’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month is “it’s time for us all to prevent sexual violence.”

In thinking about how we might each play a part in this effort, the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault has developed specific action steps that one can take, no matter how much or how little time you have to devote to this issue.

If you have 30 seconds available, you can respond thoughtfully to a sexist comment directed at you or someone else. You can refuse to support companies that glamorize violence. You can post a statistic about sexual violence on Facebook or Twitter. You can hang a poster about sexual violence in your workplace or school. And you can pledge to never condone acts of violence.

If you have five minutes available, you can make a donation to your local sexual assault crisis and support center or contact your legislator to ask them to support funding for sexual assault services. You could invite a sexual violence prevention educator to talk with your business, community organization or school. If you witness an act of violence, you can call for help, and if you think someone is pressuring or taking advantage of a person who is too intoxicated to consent, you can intervene for that person’s safety.

If you have 15 minutes to help, you can educate yourself on issues of sexual violence and the social and gender norms which support it. You can speak out about the media’s positive portrayal and sexualization of violence. You could write a public service announcement to read over your school announcement system.

Do you have more time? With 30 minutes, you could attend a presentation from your local sexual assault crisis and support center. You can talk to your family and friends about sexual violence. You could write an article for your school, workplace or organization newsletter or write a letter to the editor expressing your concerns about sexual violence and educating the community about the role that bystanders can play in ending sexual violence.

If you have 45 minutes, you could meet with your work or school administrator to review their policies about sexual harassment and violence and make sure they are adequate and effective. You could write a letter to a company expressing your dismay about how they use sex and violence to market their product and letting them know you will no longer purchase that product.

And if you had an hour, just one hour, you could contact your local sexual assault crisis and support center and volunteer to help with a project or serve on their board. You could ask 10 friends to make a donation to their local center. You could participate in an event sponsored by your local center and ask your family and friends to attend with you.

If you have lots of time, you can become a volunteer advocate for your local center. After an initial training, you will be able to carry a pager and respond to the needs of the people who call the 24-hour response line. You might talk with a person who was sexually abused years ago but is still having trouble coping. You might provide information and support to a parent who has just learned that her child was sexually abused. You might help a community member understand what it means to have a registered sex offender living in their neighborhood. And you might go to the hospital with a victim of sexual assault to provide support and comfort to them during the medical response or go with them to the police department to report the crime.

In the tri-county area, there are three sexual assault crisis and support centers: the Sexual Assault Crisis Center in Androscoggin County, REACH in Oxford County and SAVES in Franklin County. Each of these centers is available to provide you with education, materials and support if you want to help prevent sexual violence.

You see, there are many things we can do, whether we have a lot of time or only a few moments. Imagine what a difference we could make if we each did one thing.

And if that one thing helped reduce the risks or the incidence of sexual violence, or helped one sexual assault survivor feel a little bit better, it will have been time well spent.

Marty McIntyre is the executive director of the Sexual Assault Crisis Center in Androscoggin County.


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