Did You Know: April 2014

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

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Tips for Engaging Youth in Sexual Assault Prevention Efforts

By: Anna R. Hawley, MA

Since April 2001, the month of April has been nationally recognized in the United States as Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). Over the last several years, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) has provided a variety of resources to advocates nationwide to help plan SAAM activities, including free access to an assortment of publications, prevention materials and awareness-raising products.

The 2014 SAAM campaign centers on fostering healthy sexual development among young people and engaging adults and youth in sexual violence prevention efforts. If you are interested in learning how to best engage youth as partners in sexual violence prevention in your community, you can begin with the following recommendations, which are addressed in more detail on the SAAM website:

  1. Focus on assets, not problems. Young people’s knowledge, experiences, ideas, and abilities are extraordinary resources for innovation in sexual violence prevention.
  2. Address the real needs of young people. It is important to engage issues of concern as young people define them. The best way to identify young people’s needs is to ask them.
  3. Engage young people in developing programs. Youth engagement must be meaningful, not just symbolic. Leadership training is an important first step, and must be accompanied by real opportunities for young people to lead within the organization.
  4. Involve knowledgeable and committed adults. In addition to knowledge and resources, adult allies need to bring open minds, positive attitudes, and strong commitment to this work. They must also be ready to learn, recognizing that young people have a lot to teach adults.
  5. Recognize the influences of young people’s environments. It is critically important to understand the roles of young people’s family, school, social, and cultural environments, and to tailor programs to young people’s realities.
  6. Build community partnerships. Youth leadership in sexual violence prevention is not just about mobilizing young people. It is about young people mobilizing their communities for social change.

For more information on this topic and access to a variety of SAAM resources, please visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center website.

Anna R. Hawley, MA, is a fourth-year PhD candidate at Bowling Green State University. Her professional interests include the intersection of religion/spirituality and close interpersonal relationships. She enjoys serving as APAGS co-representative for APA Division 36 and teaching as an adjunct instructor at Owens Community College.

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