What Not To Do During Sexual Abuse Awareness Month

What Not To Do During Sexual Abuse Awareness Month
Not to Do During Sexual Abuse Awareness Month

As Sexual Abuse Awareness Month unfolds, a period dedicated to amplifying the voices of survivors and educating the public, it’s equally crucial to recognize actions that might undermine these efforts. While intentions may be rooted in support, certain approaches can inadvertently harm those we aim to uplift. Understanding what not to do during this sensitive time is essential in creating a supportive environment for survivors.


Do Not Oversimplify or Generalize Survivors’ Experiences

Each survivor’s journey is deeply personal, nuanced, and complex. Avoid boiling down these multifaceted experiences into oversimplified narratives or clichés. Generalizations can erase individuality and the unique challenges each survivor faces. Recognize and honor the diversity of experiences, understanding that there is no one-size-fits-all narrative for healing and resilience.


Avoid Sensationalizing or Exploiting Stories

In efforts to raise awareness, it’s critical not to sensationalize or exploit survivors’ stories for shock value or to elicit a reaction from your audience. Such approaches can dehumanize survivors, reducing their profound experiences to mere anecdotes. Always prioritize dignity and respect, giving survivors control over their own narratives.


Refrain from Pressuring Survivors to Share Their Stories

While sharing can be a powerful tool for awareness and healing, pressuring survivors to recount their experiences can be re-traumatizing. Respect each individual’s right to privacy and autonomy. The decision to share is deeply personal and should be left entirely to the survivor without external expectations or pressure.


Do Not Make Assumptions About Survivors

Avoid making assumptions about who can be a survivor of sexual abuse. Sexual violence affects individuals regardless of gender, age, race, socioeconomic status, or sexual orientation. Awareness efforts should be inclusive and acknowledge the wide-reaching impact of sexual abuse across all demographics.


Steer Clear of Victim-Blaming Language

Be mindful of language that could imply the survivor is to blame for their abuse. Phrases that question a survivor’s actions, attire, or choices during the time of their abuse contribute to a culture of victim-blaming and discourage others from coming forward. Focus on holding perpetrators accountable rather than scrutinizing the behavior of survivors.


Avoid Token Gestures That Lack Impact

Wearing a ribbon or posting a supportive message on social media can be part of awareness efforts, but don’t let these actions be the extent of your involvement. Token gestures, while well-intentioned, can feel hollow if not backed up by meaningful action and ongoing support. Engage in activities that have a tangible impact, like volunteering, educating oneself and others, or supporting survivor-led initiatives.


Do Not Overlook the Importance of Self-Education

Jumping into awareness activities without a solid understanding of the issues can do more harm than good. Take the time to educate yourself about sexual abuse, its effects, and the systemic issues that perpetuate it. A well-informed ally is infinitely more effective and supportive.


Resist the Urge to Speak Over Survivors

While allyship is valuable, remember that this month centers on elevating the voices of survivors. Resist the urge to dominate conversations or speak over those with lived experiences. Listen more than you speak, and when you do raise your voice, let it be to amplify the voices of survivors.


Don’t Neglect Self-Care for Activists and Allies

Engaging deeply with topics of abuse can be emotionally taxing. Don’t neglect your mental and emotional well-being while dedicating yourself to raising awareness. Recognize when to take a step back and practice self-care. A burnt-out ally cannot offer the support and energy the movement needs.


Avoid Creating Divisive or Polarizing Narratives

The issue of sexual abuse does not benefit from divisiveness. Avoid framing awareness efforts in a way that polarizes or creates an “us vs. them” mentality. Focus instead on creating a narrative of unity, healing, and collective action against the perpetrators and systems that enable abuse.


Sexual Abuse Awareness Month is a time for thoughtful reflection, education, and meaningful action. It’s a time to stand in solidarity with survivors, challenge the systems and attitudes that perpetuate sexual violence, and work towards a world where such abuse is eradicated. By understanding what to do and what not to do, we can ensure our efforts contribute positively to this crucial cause. Let’s approach this month with empathy, respect, and a commitment to genuine, impactful survivor support.


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© 2023 Courage Starts with You by Sherrie Allsup