April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. Sexual assault has become a high-profile topic as a result of the #MeToo movement, which has brought to light incidents of harassment and assault from hundreds of women and men.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 70 men report having been raped, and 1 in 20 men and women say they have experienced sexual violence aside from rape.
The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, known as RAINN, an anti-sexual assault organization, has strategies that you can use to help yourself and others stay safe.
First, always be aware of your surroundings. When walking alone, avoid using headphones so you aren’t distracted. If you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, you can send an emergency call through your smartphone by pressing the side or top button five times. An emergency SOS message will appear, calling 911 and sending your emergency contacts a text message with your location.
Second, as restrictions are relaxed as the pandemic eases, more people will be gathering with friends at parties or bars. If you leave your drink unattended, get a new one, in case someone tried to slip a drug into it. If you sense a friend is in an uncomfortable situation, intervene to give them a chance to walk away. Don’t leave friends behind, and ensure everyone gets home safely.
Finally, talk to friends and family about consent, appropriate behaviors and healthy relationships. When speaking to kids, make it clear that they do not need to be silent if they ever feel unsafe.
For more help, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE.