By Laura Wilson, Marketing & Advocacy Coordinator
As we head in to May, it has me looking back over this Spring, and I've come to the conclusion that April is - by far - the best month.
Not because it bridges the gap between the cold that has you wearing so many layers you forget what you look like naked, and being so hot that anytime you sit down you oh-so-attractively generate butt sweat.
It’s because, in addition to heralding in spring, April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. It promotes the education of a subject that is too often ignored in deference to people’s discomfort. Now I know most of you care – you’ve heard the statistic that one in four women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime, and one in six men. That number is so large, it would be monstrous not to care. But I also know it’s hard to translate a statistic into being applicable to your daily life, and with the majority of people who make up those devastating numbers not talking about it, the rest of us – as a consequence – aren’t thinking about it. So, in the spirit of April, let’s work on that.
Think of the class you were in today. The subway you rode to work. The busy sidewalk you charged through, or the line you stood in to buy your morning coffee. Try to recall the faces that made up your day, the people who you shared smiles with, who annoyed you, or whose shoulders you brushed against in an attempt to catch the bus. Better yet, think of all the people you didn’t think about, you didn’t notice, or who didn’t catch your eye.
Have you got it? The sheer amount of people you can come across in any given 24 hours? Good.
Now go through that flip-book of your day, take a highlighter, and color in one out of every four people. Visualize those highlighted men and women brightening up your morning walk, shining out in the darkness as you sit in a movie theater, and populating your stroll in the park. When you think of it like that, it’s not “Where’s Waldo,” and they are never hard to find. When you think of it like that, it reminds you just how overwhelming that statistic is.
Now, let’s roll back to that number: one in four. If you’re not a hermit, then the likelihood is today you have had several encounters with victims of sexual assault - with survivors. Or statistics tell me that you might be one. Any way you slice it we are all connected to this issue, because the reality is you can’t sneeze in a crowded room without someone who has a history of sexual assault offering up a “bless you.”
So now you’re aware, and now you are thinking about it, and if you’re like me you’re thinking “How can so many people be affected and this still be a problem?” It’s still a problem because awareness is not enough, and just like April, awareness comes and goes without much fanfare. That’s not to say people aren’t talking about it, but if you look closer you’ll notice it’s the same people over and over again filling your newsfeed with articles, going to rallies, and speaking about popularizing a culture of consent. Those people – as much as they may annoy you with their constant bombardment (damn. Why can’t they just post a meme of Trump like everyone else?) – can’t stop talking or posting, because if they stopped, who would take their place? Their burden is too great. They know that if they didn’t share, this topic which is already unjustly shrouded in distaste, embarrassment, and shame would slink back into the shadows. They are forced to be advocates because you and I don’t go beyond our awareness to help them shoulder the painful and heavy burden of change.
So, let’s work on that.
Sexual Assault Awareness deserves more than April. Those people you see each day deserve more than April, they deserve more than just our awareness. They deserve for someone as great as you to be their agent of action while they are too broken or hurt to do it for themselves. So carry that awareness, and beyond that, carry activism into May, and June, and each and every month until the issue is eradicated. Don’t let all the people who make up that statistic, who make up your days, carry that baggage alone or quietly.
So as I sit here behind the screen of my computer – one of four daughters – I know I will hit ‘post’ tonight, because that’s how I will step outside of awareness and into change, that’s how I choose to fight the statistic that seeks to claim me or one of my sisters, has claimed my mother and countless friends and strangers, and that’s how I choose to pick up the weight and lessen someone else’s burden.