Domestic violence and sexual assault are so embedded in our society they can be hard to see. There is a culture of silence around these issues, one that compounds the shame felt by survivors of abuse, often rendering them—as well as the people who hurt them—invisible. It is crucial to stand against this facelessness by understanding just how many of us and how many people we know experience this abuse.
Our collective inaction helps perpetuate domestic violence and sexual assault. The sheer scale of these harmful situations overwhelms. We feel frozen by anxiety. We often are unsure about what exactly constitutes abuse. We are uncertain about how to intervene in a situation that appears abusive, and unclear about what to do if we do intervene.
We can overcome this paralysis through education and a willingness to speak out, to examine our own attitudes and ask ourselves how we can do better and do more.
Domestic violence is not about violence, and sexual assault is not about sex. Both forms of abuse are primarily about power and control, and both often start in ways that we may not recognize as abuse. To get to the roots of domestic violence and sexual assault, we must understand each encompasses a wide variety of behaviors.
Sexual activity requires consent, which is defined as voluntary, positive agreement between the participants to engage in specific sexual activity.
If I encounter a situation between other people that might be physically or sexually abusive, I should remember:
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HELPLINE: 877.863.6338
SEXUAL ASSAULT HELPLINE: 888.293.2080