Friday, April 24 2020
Day after day we have been seeing the images and hearing the stories of those brave healthcare professionals assuming their positions on the frontlines and giving their all in the face of the reality of COVID-19. Isn’t it gratifying to witness our doctors and nurses getting the credit they deserve? Healthcare professionals aren’t just heroes during a global pandemic. Through their commitment to specialize in forensic nursing, they are heroic for thousands of survivors of sexual assault.
Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) have been specially trained in the medical, psychological, and forensic examination of victims of sexual assault. If you noticed, these nurses do not stop at the physical needs that may be present. They use their trauma-informed backgrounds to promote a culture of safety, empowerment, and healing to provide the highest holistic level of individual medical care. The emotional well-being of the survivor is equally as important as the physical and the forensic collection for potential prosecution.
Consider for a moment that a sexual assault is a sort of personal pandemic. Survivors require specialized care in order to counter the potential widespread internal devastation the effects can create. The emergence of forensic nursing in recent years has been incredibly beneficial by blending traditional medical care with trauma-informed practices.
We not only thank the frontline heroes, we commend the employers who support and implement SANE professionals in their healthcare systems. We also must do our part to value the importance of the forensic nursing role and make sure our decision makers know we want this specialized care in our communities.
As we continue to appropriately spotlight our healthcare workers in these unprecedented times, we also want to thank them for continuing to provide trauma-informed care for those who have experienced sexual violence. Just as Fred Rogers said, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." For more information on the SANE role or if you or someone you know could benefit from support following sexual violence, please call our helpers at 1-877-933-1990.
Monday, April 13 2020
Since the SAAM theme this year is about consent, I thought it would be interesting to talk about what we can do to create a culture of consent in a world that is inundated by rape culture. First, let’s define consent culture and rape culture. A culture of consent normalizes the action of asking for consent and respecting whatever responses are given. Rape culture is when rape and other forms of sexual violence are common, pervasive, normalized, viewed as inevitable, and are trivialized by authority figures, the media, and by the majority of members of the society.
Now that we know what both of those terms mean, what do they look like in real life? Rape culture is something that influences almost every aspect of a woman’s life, unfortunately. Research shows that 1 in 5 women have experienced a completed or attempted rape in their lifetime. Think of you and four of your friends; statistically, one of you in your friend group either has been or will be raped. Now, think about one of the last, big rape trials that was on the news. How was that victim treated? Were they asked if they had been drinking? How about what they were wearing? And then think of the perpetrator; what kinds of things were brought up about them? Remember the Brock Turner trial? He was portrayed as a young man from a good family, an athlete, who didn’t deserve to have his future destroyed. The judge only gave him a six-month sentence after he sexually assaulted an unconscious woman. Remember that consent is not the absence of “no”, an unconscious person is never able to give consent.
Does rape culture influence other cultural aspects, like music or advertising? Robin Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines” and Justin Beiber’s “What Do You Mean” are great examples of how music is influenced by rape culture. With lyrics like, “What do you mean? When you nod your head yes, But you wanna say no, What do you mean?” I think that it’s pretty clear what she means. And to Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”, no... you don’t know she wants it unless she says yes. The lines aren’t blurred, if a “yes” isn’t present, there isn’t consent. All around us we see advertisements, from music albums to beer companies to perfume ads, that have scantily clad women, or women in compromising situations because sex sells in a rape culture society.
How can we change from a rape culture to a consent culture? One of the most important things that we can do is stop victim blaming. Stop asking if the person who was raped had been drinking, or if they had been where they shouldn’t have been. Instead of blame, believe and reassure them that it was not their fault. As a society, we have to change the mindset of teaching someone how to avoid being raped, to teaching people not to rape. Creating a culture of consent is key! Another way we can change the culture is to not financially support any company/artist/musician/media that portrays women as sex objects. Money talks, and if we stop buying these products that disparage women, we can force them to change tactics.
It’s up to us to help change the culture. Mahatma Gandhi said “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. Let’s do our part to make society a safe place for all of us.
Friday, April 03 2020
In the midst of everything that is going on, April has begun. The weather is warming up, plants are budding, and Sexual Assault Awareness Month is here. Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) is a little bit different this year, but no less important! The theme is I Ask, which focuses on asking consent. Consent is giving and receiving freely given, enthusiastic consent that can be given or withdrawn at any time.
We often think of consent with sexual contact (which is definitely the MOST important place we should be getting consent), consent is a vital aspect of ALL parts of our lives. Building a culture of consent not only decreases sexual violence but it creates healthy relationships with ourselves and others and helps us heal from trauma.
So what is building a culture of consent?
Teach consent from a young age. Research shows that consent is best taught at a young age and can decrease sexual violence throughout the lifetime. Teaching consent helps keep kiddos safe and create a world of respect, healthy relationships, and free from unwanted sexual contact.
Model consent. Be a beacon of consent to show others how to do it! The way that you act and the consent that you show will inspire others to do the same.
Good boundaries. Knowing boundaries is important for consent. When we know our own boundaries, we are best able to give or withdraw consent. It’s also good to learn other people’s boundaries! That way we can not cross any of their boundaries and learn to interact in ways that feel safe, healthy, and fun for everyone. It’s also good to set our boundaries. When we set boundaries (whether it’s on how we communicate, what activities we do, or sex), we do what feels best for us, we help others know what we want and need, and we can feel empowered over ourselves which helps us heal!
Good communication. Communication is everything! Learning how to express yes and no, what we like and don’t like, and what we feel helps in all aspects of our lives but also makes consent especially good for everyone. It’s also good to learn how to listen to different kinds of communication. Learn how to read and respect nonverbals and written tone too, or discuss what things mean in these ways of communicating. The difference between … and !!! is huge as are different body language cues and facial expressions.
Say no when you want to. How many of us have a hard time saying no? 🙋♂️ Part of building a culture of consent is giving yourself permission to say no. It is okay to say no to things that you don’t want to do. Saying you’re not sure or maybe is also okay.
Say yes when you want to. It is also okay and awesome to say yes when you want to! It’s also good to have conversations about what you want and like, whether in the bedroom, for something as simple as dinner, or in how folks can support you.
Accept no. No means no. One of the most important ways that we can build a culture of consent is by watching the way we react to no. Good ways to accept no include, “Okay!”, “Thanks for telling me!,” and “I appreciate you keeping your boundaries.” Sometimes hearing no hurts, especially if we want our kiddos to hug a loved one, hang out with a friend, or some physical touch so learning how to process those emotions, come up with alternatives that feel safe and happy for others, and respect boundaries knowing that it’s not a reflection on us is helpful.
Learn about consent in different scenarios. We often hear of people “consenting and then regretting” or people “consenting when drunk.” Whoa! It’s important to learn more about consent because things like this are absolutely false. If someone is regretting an experience, then likely there was no consent in the first place. Remember, consent is CLEAR, ENTHUSIASTIC, and can be withdrawn at any time! It’s a constant, caring check in and conversation. Consent cannot be given or received when under the influence (if you can’t drive a car, you can’t consent)! If someone feels like they can’t say no, it’s not consent. People under 16 cannot consent and some people with disabilities do not legally have capacity to consent (and some people with disabilities do!). This video is a good way to start: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGoWLWS4-kU
This SAAM we ask you to help us build a culture of consent! Try to implement some of these ways or let us know what you’re doing and tag us with #IAsk, #SAAM, or @safeplaceforhope.