Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which recently concluded, is about more than awareness – the ultimate goal is prevention.
Since consent is a clear, concrete example of what it takes to end sexual harassment, abuse and assault, it only makes sense that this year's theme centered on empowering all of us to put consent into practice. Whether it be asking to hold someone's hand, for permission to share personal information with others, or if a partner is interested in sex.
Asking for consent is a healthy, normal and necessary part of everyday interactions, yet many of us fail to flat out ask. Hopefully, this campaign was able to uplift the importance of consent and transform it from being prescriptive to empowering.
Sexual assault is a serious and widespread problem. Nearly one in five women in the US have experienced rape or attempted rape at some time in their lives and one in 71 American men have experienced rape or attempted rape.
When we talk about prevention, we mean stopping sexual violence before it even has a chance to happen. This means changing the social norms that allow it to exist in the first place, from individual attitudes, values and behaviors to laws, institutions and widespread social norms.
Prevention is everyone's responsibility: All of us can create and promote safe environments. We can intervene to stop concerning behavior; promote and model healthy attitudes and relationships; and believe survivors and assist them in finding resources.
My hope is that prevention and consent will become a more invested community concern instead of just one month out of the year. But it's up to all of us to make that happen. Ask for concent, be a good bystander and hold yourself and others accountable for obtaining consent. Every time.