Brainstorming for Sexual Assault Awareness in our communities

S Hasan

The other day I was looking up local Sexual Assault Awareness Month events and thinking about ways to get people from our (‘our’ in this case = Muslim) communities to come out and participate. I started to imagine people who came to my mind first and their responses if I were to make a suggestion, instigate involvement. The aunties and/or their daughters and the looks I projected on their faces in my mind were discouraging images.

As I continued to indulge my faulty expectations regarding an imagined conversation with community members, a parallel (and far more positive) train of thought began to brew: I wondered how we could spread awareness in our communities that were specifically tailored to Muslims? Surely we could at least hold an event such as handing out ribbons, spark dialogue. What could we come up with on our own? I mean, in the (hopefully not so distant) future I would think it would be cool to have one of these tailored towards our own community, but there is a long way to go before that comes into fruition. I was curious to see what kind of resources were easily/google accessible to me now- as a Muslim woman, if I were searching for help, answers, counseling, anything.

While I found some interesting links, some directing me to neat organizations such as a Directory of Programs serving Muslims, I also inevitably encountered a lot of misinformation. What piqued my interest was a campaign run by Canadian Muslims called Muslims for White Ribbon. This was a neat although short campaign that ran this past winter; their motto: "Never commit, condone, or remain silent about violence against women and girls". It made me really happy to see this initiative pop up in my google search even though this was specifically about women and girls, and it is important to keep in mind that when we talk about Sexual Assault Awareness we shouldn’t just refer to assault against women; 1 in 33 American men have experienced rape or attempted rape – that’s 3% of the men in this country that have been able to report it. I wonder then if there are similar initiatives American Muslims have taken or are working on. And if we haven’t yet started, when do we plan on getting something together? Would this be a difficult initiative to take? What are your thoughts?

Rape is OK When

a. You dress provocatively?

b. You get him excited sexually?

c. You are in a relationship?

d. You are either stoned or drunk?

The correct answer: none of the above, rape is never OK. Most of you are probably thinking, “Duh, what an obvious answer!” Yes, the answer to this question should be a clear cut, common sense answer for everyone. We all should know rape can never be justified. Shockingly, however, not everyone will agree. Some people will actually choose from the options given above. There are many adolescents, and even adults, today who believe that forced sexual activity can be acceptable, depending on the circumstances.

I was going through my news feed on Facebook one day and I came across a survey that was taken at a public high school. The survey asked students when it was acceptable for a boy to hold a girl down and force her to have sex. A variety of possible scenarios were given including: if the boy is intoxicated, the girl dresses in sexually exciting clothing, they are in a relationship, or if the girl has led the guy on. On average, 43.7% of the male students, and 25.33% of the female students, answered, that in any of these situations rape is acceptable. These ideas that “the girl was asking for it” or “she deserved it” (or- “he deserved it”) have become such common justifications for something as atrocious as rape. We may think that everyone knows forced sexual activity is unacceptable no matter what, but the fact is many kids either do not know or do not want to accept that rape will NEVER be acceptable.

There are many articles and surveys indicating that people think rape are acceptable. The need for awareness, advocacy, and education about sexual violence should be apparent. We need to teach children, and everyone for that matter, that it is NEVER ok to be raped or coerced into any form of sexual activity. They need to be informed that they have the right to be respected and loved, not humiliated or abused. They also need to know that no matter what the situation, a forced sexual act will never be accepted or tolerated.

Today’s generation needs better role models, more education and awareness, and a stronger/safer system to ensure that nobody ever feels that they deserve to be mistreated/disrespected, or that they have the right to violate another person in any way. And these factors: positive role models, proper education, and a strong system start in our homes and schools. Creating awareness about sexual violence, advocating for the rights and respect of people, and instilling these positive morals in our children (the future leaders and building blocks of our society) are just some ways to ensure that we do our part to protect and educate our future generation.

Written By- Sabaahath Latifi

April is SAAM

S Hasan

Now that all the bunnies have been reverse anthropomorphized and the eggs have been found, what better way to kick April off than by shining a light on it!

My all time FAVORITE awareness month became officially official in 2009 per a very scholarly source. While April 2nd (today) was the intended Day of Action, the best part about this month is that you can make each day your Day of Action: start for now by wearing your teal ribbon proud and loud, taking an oath to speak up whenever and wherever you should, and taking a few minutes each day to making yourself more informed while you try to inform others.

On that last note we’ll try our best to contribute by posting resources we find helpful, definitions you should be aware of, curious current events (honestly, I’m stuck on how brilliant the recently coined Rape Ross is…opinions to follow soon) and the like.

For now though I will leave you with my favorite myth from RVA’s list of Myths & Facts:

MYTH: All women secretly want to be raped.
Women, like all human beings, want a life of dignity and safety. Sexual assault robs a person of dignity and a sense of personal safety. No one wants the physical and emotional pain caused by sexual assault.

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