Embrace Your Voice This April to Help #MeToo Move From Vision to Reality
By Karen Baker, CEO of NSVRC
For those of us who have dedicated our lives and careers to sexual violence prevention, it has been incredibly gratifying to see the national conversation over the past six months raise important questions of harassment, consent, autonomy, and abuse in public and private spaces.
We are eternally grateful to the thousands of survivors who have embraced their voices and said #MeToo and everyone who has supported them. But the progress we have already made in bringing this issue to the forefront is only the first step. Enacting real and lasting change will require everyone to continue making sexual violence prevention a priority now and in the future.
Those twin needs — for all to get involved in prevention, and for it to retain a place in the public consciousness — are why we at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center selected “Embrace Your Voice” as this year’s theme for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the first since a wave of women brought allegations against Harvey Weinstein and began an avalanche that reached from Hollywood to the halls of Congress and back again.
The women and men of #MeToo embraced their voices, and now it’s time for you to embrace yours this April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Survivors alone cannot end sexual violence. Sexual violence persists as a serious and widespread problem across our culture — one in five women experience it across the country, with numbers as high as nine in 10 women in some industries. Everyone needs to lend their voice to changing the culture that allows this problem to continue.
Embracing your voice is something that can and must happen every day. The things you say every day send a message about your beliefs and values. When you stand up for survivors of sexual violence, you send a powerful message that you believe and support them.
You can also embrace your voice by practicing consent in everyday situations. People often think consent is only important when it comes to sex. Really, consent is about always choosing to respect personal and emotional boundaries. For example, you can ask someone before giving them a hug or taking their picture and then respecting their answer.
Changing the culture begins with the simplest steps, embracing consent and respect in your everyday life. By practicing consent, you show that you value the choices of others.
Another way to embrace your voice is by acting as an engaged bystander. An engaged bystander is someone who intervenes before, during, or after a situation when they see or hear behaviors that threaten, harass, or otherwise encourage sexual violence. Bit by bit, engaging directly and letting others know that sexually violent behaviors won’t be tolerated helps set an example that will influence others.
Finally, everyone must embrace their voice to call for cultural change at the institutional level. That means pushing your campus, your workplace, your representatives, or your religious institution to put in place policies and protocols that make clear that sexual violence will not be tolerated and give survivors safe avenues to report when it does occur.
I recently became NSVRC’s chief executive officer, and I can say with certainty that I have never felt more hopeful about the future of the sexual violence prevention movement. The dialogue of the past six months has opened a door that will not be closed, but there is much more work to do to build a world where survivors feel supported by the world around them, and, eventually, one where no one needs to call themselves a survivor.