Sexual Assault is a serious and widespread problem. And what we say about it matters. Recent comments garnering attention in the media illustrate a need for change across our culture in order to end sexual assault and create a society of respect, safety and equality.
A few keys to remember:
• Sexual violence is a serious and widespread societal issue that has a lasting impact on individuals,
families and communities. Every conversation that conveys disrespectful attitudes or illegal acts about
other individuals, even in private, continues to foster a culture where sexual assault is normalized and
puts people at risk.
• “Locker room talk” is not an excuse for unacceptable behavior and is insulting to other men and boys
across the country. We are encouraged to see many men, including professional athletes, speaking out
against this damaging, disrespectful language. That is what real leadership is all about.
• The more people who speak up when lines are crossed, the better. Because when we passively stand
by and allow others to talk about committing crimes, or even joke about assault, we allow sexual
violence to thrive.
• These comments also underscore an aspect of entitlement that is often present in high-profile cases. A
person’s status, occupation and/or reputation should not be a factor when it comes to sexual assault.
• We all have a role to play in preventing sexual violence, and that includes our leaders. The next
president will have the opportunity and responsibility to help support survivors and further the
prevention movement in a constructive way. They must build on the work by the current administration
to invest in this critically important issue.
• For survivors: Because sexual violence is so prevalent, these comments likely triggered stressful
reactions is some survivors. Help is available through a nationwide network of sexual assault centers or
by contacting the national hotline: 1-800-656-4673.
• Accountability: It is important that we hold people accountable who talk about having committed
sexual assault or that they have the desire to do so. Help is available through a national network of
treatment providers through ATSA. Research shows that treatment can be effective, especially for
younger or first-time offenses.
• Start early, talk often: The fact is that children receive messages from the world around them about
sexuality at a very young age, and our reactions to sexual behaviors and words can stick with children
and help shape their views of sexuality for years to come.
• Bystander education: Bystander education and training programs are very effective in preventing
sexual assault by showing how to take action against behavior that puts others at risk. These include
speaking out against inappropriate language and intervening in potentially violent situations.