Sexual violence affects millions of people each year in our community and it can have lasting effects on victims ranging from short to long-term physical and mental health problems. More than 1 in 3 women and nearly 1 in 4 men have experienced sexual violence involving physical contact at some point in their lives. Sexual assault is common and it starts at an early age. While sexual assault is often associated with an in-person experience, with the rise of social media platforms, it is occurring on an even larger scale nowadays.
Social media and the various new technologies of the digital world we are living in have transformed the ways in which we communicate. Within these online communities, we, unfortunately, see harassment, cyberbullying, sexual abuse, and exploitation happen far too often. The ability to hide one’s identity behind a screen or a fake profile has made the online world increasingly dangerous. The month of April is recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) and this year’s theme uplifts the goal of “Building Safe Online Spaces Together.”
Building safe online spaces together, saying no to sexual assault & forging a brighter future within our communities!
As more advancements continue to arise, it is important to be educated on what online sexual abuse looks like and how to actively take action in promoting online safe spaces. Increased access to social media and online chatting platforms, especially at a young age, makes children and teenagers even more vulnerable to sexual violence virtually. Online sexual abuse often happens in an unwarranted manner. Though it occurs online, the impact is just as damaging as in-person sexual abuse. Some examples include sending unwelcome sexual comments, sending unwanted requests for nude photos/video & sharing private images/videos without consent.
Now more than ever, it is imperative that the respect we teach at home, in the classroom, and in the workplace translates to our words and actions online with friends, family members, significant others, and even with strangers. How can you help build safe online spaces?
- Practice consent and show respect for boundaries
- Identify red flags that indicate online grooming
- Asking to keep the relationship secret
- Making suggestive or sexual comments
- Asking the child about their sexual background
- Create respectful online workspaces and classrooms
- Support survivors of online harassment and abuse
- Participate in the #30DaysofSAAM Challenge on Instagram.
As we go about our day-to-day lives, let’s remember to treat others the way we want to be treated. Let’s champion love and respect whether we’re having a conversation in-person, via social media, or on a Zoom call for work. Let’s stand up for those around us, loved ones and strangers alike, and be advocates for building safe online spaces together!