Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2013: How to Be a Good Ally to Sexual Assault Victims

April is Sexual Assault Awareness month, and as such, it is probably a good opportunity to learn how to be a good ally to folks who have experienced trauma related to sexual assault and sexual abuse.

Nearly 1 out of every 4 women has experienced sexual assault abuse in the United States. But comedians like Daniel Tosh make fun of the concept of rape, and this is problematic. Why? Comedians like Daniel Tosh are actively normalizing rape, but not for the benefit of victims. Ever heard of the term "culture of rape"? Television shows, movies and news shows trivialize sexual assault and abuse, thus perpetuating sexual crimes.

Being a good ally to sexual abuse victims is essential to combat institutional conceptions of sexual assault abuse and being an all-around decent human being.

1. Do not speak for victims of sexual assault abuse!

While it is a good thing to be an advocate for those who have experienced sexual abuse, when an opportunity is given to them to speak, let them. If there is no opportunity for them to speak, do not speak for them. There are ways to be an advocate without overstepping your privilege as someone who has not experienced this type of abuse.

2. Do not support folks who trivialize sexual assault!

The biggest problem these days is when people make fun of rape or other forms of sexual assault. As a victim of sexual assault myself, this makes my blood boil. An important skill to learn as an ally of sexual assault victims is to learn how to validate experiences. For those folks who do experience sexual assault, it is an experience that takes months and years to deconstruct and completely get over. If the person who has experienced sexual assault does not want to talk about it, then don’t talk about it. However, that is different from making fun of any sexual assault violence situation (fiction or non-fiction) whether or not it happened to them personally.

Lastly, speak up when someone is disrespecting a woman and her body. A woman's body is sacred and does not deserve to be treated like someone's property. When women are not around, speak up! When women are around, speak up! Speak up against oppressive language and actions.

3. Be respectful!

If you are in a relationship with someone, then it is essential that you are respectful towards them. This may be obvious to some of you, but having forced sex with someone you are officially dating is still considered rape. Being respectful is considering your partner's feelings especially when becoming intimate.

Additionally, being respectful means considering what type of language you use to address a woman and her body. The promiscuous woman does not deserve to be assaulted nor does she have to like you. Language perpetuates the perception that a woman's body is property. Remove these words from your vocabulary: whore, slut, bitch and pussy (unless you are referring to a real body part). 

Please go to this website with more information about sexual assault awareness month and resources. Follow me on Twitter: @Cualania

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Maribel Hermosillo

Maribel Hermosillo is a contributor for PolicyMic's Identities column covering racial justice and feminism. Maribel has written for Rh Reality Check, Strong Families, The San Antonio Current, Yes Ma’am, Brown Queen and The Arts United of San Antonio. Maribel graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio with a focus on American Studies and Mexican-American Studies. Maribel's experience as a first generation queer woman of color deeply informs her writing and poetry. Maribel likes to take long reflective walks on mountains, hills and wooded areas. She resides in San Antonio, Texas.

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