Here's the thing -- we just don't like to talk about it.
And I get it. I do. For those of us who have young daughters, my wife and I included, none of us want to imagine what could happen to them at the hands of a boyfriend, or a girlfriend, or a significant other, or a spouse, or simply a "date" they've known for less than 24 hours.
If we only pray, then we pray that God will watch over them so they're safe, always, as well as our boys, to ensure they become better men and treat other women and men with respect and empathy.
If we only hope, then we hope the same sentiment as the prayer.
And if we go beyond the prayers and hope, and do our part to create awareness and prevention, we can make and do make a difference in the lives of our children and teens (and even the adults in our lives). It isn't easy, because it's an uncomfortable conversation for even those of us currently involved in awareness and prevention.
April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, women experience about 4.8 million intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapes every year. Less than 20 percent of battered women sought medical treatment following an injury.
That's millions, mind you. It's horrific and complicated, and yet prevention and awareness still seems to be one of the best paths forward for children, teens and us all.
I'm proud to have been selected to serve on the City of Santa Cruz Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women, to contribute my time to help generate awareness and prevention locally within our community as well as work with local law enforcement, and to help reduce the incidence of domestic violence and sexual assault.
For those of us with children, girls and boys alike, we have an ultimate responsibility to instill in them their own sense of personal responsibility, empathy, compassion, to be safe with their bodies and their minds, and not react inappropriately and violently. We need to be clear that violence against women and girls, and men and boys, including sexual assault, harassment, bullying or anything related is never okay.
Here's the thing -- let's keep talking about it.
Join us in April (and year round) in giving voice to those who feel they don't have one, in particular victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. The following local events and activities are happening in April (and the April 26 events are happening all over):
April 5, Wednesday – CRIME VICTIMS RIGHTS AWARENESS WALK
6:00 p.m.–7:30 p.m. – Santa Cruz County Courthouse
The goal for this observance is to increase public awareness of the impact that crime has on individuals and on communities. Participants will meet on the steps of the County Courthouse on Ocean Street and walk to Santa Cruz City Hall on Center Street. For more information, please contact Sylvia Nieto at Victim/Witness Services at (831) 454-2010.
All Day – Everywhere
Why Denim? The campaign was originally triggered by a 1999 ruling by the Italian Supreme Court where a rape conviction was overturned because the justices felt that since the victim was wearing tight jeans she must have helped her rapist remove her jeans. The following day, the women in the Italian Parliament came to work wearing jeans in solidarity with the victim. Make a point to wear Denim on this day to challenge one of the myths surrounding sexual assaults. For more information, please contact the Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women at (831) 420-5010 or firstname.lastname@example.org and visit www.denimdayinfo.org.
April 26, Wednesday – WALK A MILE IN HER SHOES
5:00 p.m.–7:30 p.m. – Lighthouse Point, Santa Cruz, CA (or find one near you)
Join fellow community members as we put on our fanciest high heels to speak out against sexual violence in our community. Men, women, kids, and dogs will be teetering on heels down West Cliff to raise awareness and create a safer Santa Cruz County.
Walk as an individual or gather a team. You can also donate here. All proceeds raised will support sexual assault survivors and their families through counseling, legal advocacy, and medical assistance, as well as teen dating violence prevention programs in local junior high and high schools.
SCHEDULE A DATE IN APRIL – ENGAGING THE BYSTANDER
The goal of this free, two-hour workshop is to find ways how to respond effectively in difficult situations, as well as raise awareness regarding sexual assault for community members and agencies. To schedule a workshop for your business, friends, church, or agency, contact the Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women at (831) 420-5010 or email@example.com.
Here's the thing -- our children are counting on us.