08
Apr

Sexual Assault Awareness Month

In Features

Content Warning: Sexual Assault

Hi! I’m Laura, your VP Welfare and Community, and I’m going to give you a quick overview of Sexual Assault Awareness month, what SUSU are doing for it, and some tips on how to look after yourself. The current crisis has been emotionally exhausting for many people, and whereas I would have thrown myself into this campaign before the lockdown, I’ve made a personal and professional decision to take a step back and focus on promoting support, to look after both my headspace, and yours.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This month is dedicated to supporting survivors, raising awareness, and advocating for better systems for survivors to access and gain support. We will be releasing a video soon about how much change has happened within a year of the SCA (Sexual Consent Awareness) Survey closing last March.

But, since we’re all online at the moment, I am going to be raising awareness instead regarding online sexual violence and harassment. This is often either left out of the conversation, or added on as a ‘oh yeah, and it can happen online’. Before the lockdown, I was working with the Revenge Porn Hotline, who help people who have had their images shared online without their consent.

It’s important to remember that for many, many people around the world, this lockdown has forced people to be in households with their abusers, and be in a vulnerable position. The University are able to help any student out there who may need to leave their household, and they can help with the costs associated with this.

If you’re still in recovery, I’ve put together some advice for recovery during lockdown and social isolation:

  • There is no requirement to use this time to ‘heal’. Just because you may have some more time on your hands, doesn’t mean you have the required brain space or surrounding environment to really unpick or heal from your trauma. There is no pressure to use this time to suddenly ‘fix’ yourself or to confront anything. Use this time to look after yourself.
  • If you’re living with an abusive person, please continue to reach out to necessary support contacts. This can be Student Life, Yellow Door, or any local rape crisis helplines in your area.
  • Even though April is an awareness month, you’re allowed to take a step back and not engage with campaigns. You are still brave and still valid even if you don’t come out with your story on social media. You don’t have to write the articles, make the videos, or write the post. You are allowed to just be, and you’re allowed to ignore content.
  • The survivor community can be incredibly welcoming and warm but it can also be toxic and unhelpful. Sometimes reaching out to other survivors can feel more helpful but if your friends have capacity and mind space to just listen and HEAR you, that can be really useful as well.
  • I’m not going to tell you to practice mindfulness here, because sometimes no amount of breathing exercises can help how we feel in the moment. Some people may see their memories/experiences/trauma resurfacing during this time. But, use this time if you wish, to find something creative to do. Get into short stories, or video making, or music creation. Find something to create that sits outside of your own trauma.

If your friend reaches out to you about sexual violence, here are three important things to remember:

  • Believe them. Even if you have doubts about what they’ve said, or you don’t understand the situation, believe that regardless of all of that, they have been impacted and need a friend.
  • Don’t offer advice on what they ‘should’ have done, this adds to feelings of guilt and shame. Just listen and make them feel heard.
  • Remind them you aren’t a therapist, and point them in the direction of people who have been trained and specialized to help. This is pretty much always the kindest thing you can do. When we haven’t been trained or understand how to help survivors, we can often make it worse by accident.

Support Contact Details

Find your local Rape Crisis

Yellow Door

Victim Support

TreeTops

SurvivorsUK (Male Specific)

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