How can we work to prevent sexual assault from occurring?

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O V E R V I E W 

What is sexual assault? Sexual assault is a legal term used to describe a range of sexual offences. Sexual assault is when you are forced, tricked or coerced into doing sexual things that you do not want to. A study found that almost 2 million Australian adults have experienced at least one sexual assault since the age of 15.

Sexual assault has always been an issue, but has never had as much attention as now. Support services have seen a significant rise in women talking about sexual assaults. 1800Respect, an Australian domestic violence and sexual assault support service has received more than 5,000 calls a week to its hotline. Manager Melonie Sheehan said that they typically see a rise in calls when sexual violence is reported in the media. 

W H A T   Y O U   N E E D   TO   K N O W

Sexual violence and sexual assault are linked to many long-term effects. One of the most common psychological and emotional reactions that survivors will experience is depression. Depression is a mood disorder that includes a constant feeling of sadness. At its worst, depression can lead to suicide. Almost 800,000 people die every year due to suicide. One in three women worldwide will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. Effects of sexual abuse are physical, social, emotional, psychological and spiritual. 

Many survivors never speak out about their sexual assault. They are often too ashamed to come forward, sexual assault is a very dehumanising act against someone. Sexual abuse leaves women feeling powerless. There is a tremendous fear of shaming, blaming, retaliation and being doubted. This fear prevents many sexual assault survivors from reporting their assaults. Only 230 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are spoken about and reported to police, meaning that around 3 out of 4 cases go unreported. 

Walking home at night should be something that everyone is able to do without the fear of being attacked, harassed or assaulted. But, it is not. A study revealed that 46.6% of young females felt “unsafe” or “very unsafe” to walk home alone after dark.

This video shows what Australian women hear and endure whilst walking home alone at night.

H O W   M A N Y   W O M E N   A R E   A S S A U L T E D? 

In the United States there are 433,648 survivors aged 12 or older of rape and sexual assault per year. Every 73 seconds an American is sexually assaulted. 

In Australia, almost 2 million adults had experienced at least 1 sexual assault since the age of 15.

Globally, 736 million women have been subjected to intimate partner violence, non-partner violence, or both at least once in their life.

1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men report experiencing an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.

M Y   R E S P O N S E

How can we work to prevent sexual abuse from occurring? How can we allow women to get home safely without being attacked? How can we make women aware of incidents nearby so they can find another route? These were all questions that came into my head when I began thinking of a topic. After brainstorming many potential ways, I decided to create an app prototype. The app allows for women to view user reported incidents and police reported incidents. I drew inspiration from other apps that do similar things. My app includes a section on positive psychology practices that can be applied and used to benefit our mental health, I thought this section was important because no other apps have this. These incidents can be very traumatising to women and many who are impacted do not have access or knowledge to how to receive help and better their mental health.

W H A T   Y O U   C A N   D O   T O   H E L P

CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) developed an acronym that focuses on ways to stop sexual violence. 

S – Promote Social Norms that protect against violence.

TTeach skills to prevent sexual violence.  

O – Provide opportunities to empower and support girls and women. 

– Create protective environments.

SV – Support victims/survivors to lessen harms. 

This acronym focuses on reducing the likelihood that a person will engage in sexual violence. There are many other ways to help. These include:

  • Educating yourself on the issue
  • Believing all survivors
  • Speaking out against forms of violence or harassment
  • Stepping in or calling the police when you see something that is not right
  • Having open and honest conversations with your friends
  • Being aware of controlling behaviour in relationships – degrading jokes or language, refusal to accept “no” as an answer, sexually or not, extreme jealousy and a history of violent behaviour.
  • Encouraging your friends to set clear limits with their partner(s)
  • Signing petitions
  • Being aware of how violence is portrayed in the media
  • Attending sexual assault rallies
  • Speaking out against racist, sexist or homophobic jokes
  • Respecting your partners, friends, family and significant others
  • Supporting and donate to sexual assault services
  • Advocating for change and more prevention programs
  • Talking to your school about having a sexual assault prevention company come in and speak to your school
  • Applauding and standing with others who speak out against sexual violence
  • Calling for help immediately if you witness an act of violence
  • Knowing and understanding that anyone can be raped regardless of gender, age, clothing, location etc.
  • Being open to change
  • Knowing that you have the power to make a difference!     

O N   T H E    F R O N T L I N E :   A D I E   D E L A N E Y 

Earlier this year in March, I was fortunate to sit down and interview a front line worker in my local community. Adie Delaney works as a Primary Prevention Educator at SASS (Sexual Assault Support Services) in Hobart, Tasmania. Working as a circus instructor and aerialist already, Adie decided she wanted an extra challenge in her life. The job of a primary prevention educator came up and was perfect for Adie who wanted to work with young people.

Adie believes that sexual assault being spoken about more publicly allows for more people to come forward. She said having a survivor who is willing to put their story out there is very powerful. It provides solidarity and confidence for survivors which allows for more people to comfortably tell their own story. However, with this amount of public attention, there is inevitably a backlash. People feel uncomfortable with the topic and don’t want to acknowledge the fact it happens in our society. 

As imagined, managing your own mental health whilst dealing with such a heavy field of work can be quite a challenge. Because of this, Adie works two days a week. Adie says that working two days a week at SASS gives her time to emotionally download. She is a firm believer in stopping things before they occur, which is why teaching consent and trying to create systemic change is so important to her. 

When asked what the hardest part of her job is, Adie simply replied “hearing disclosures”. 

“Potentially being the first person [a survivor has] ever told is really hard. Particularly because I work with young people, so it’s usually young people that are disclosing that something harmful has happened to them and it just never gets easier.”

Adie Delaney

Adie is an incredible person who uses her skills and education to make a positive difference in the world. As mentioned earlier, Adie also works as a circus instructor and aerialist. Taking her love of circus and love of teaching consent, Adie shares the idea of listening to your body’s signals through a TED talk. You can watch here:

F E E D B A C K

I would love to hear from every single one of you in constructive ways! Feedback on every part of my project is welcome, and I would particularly love to know your thoughts on the app, and if you would use it or not! I am also very interested in hearing additional ways that we personally can strive to prevent sexual violence. Please click on the ‘Feedback Form’ button or leave me a comment down below!

 

 

I am always trying to educate myself further and get a greater understanding on the amount of people affected by sexual violence, so I would really appreciate it if you took a second to reflect and answer the polls below!

Please know the polls are completely anonymous!

6 Comments
Zoe_510

Zoe_510

Hey! My name is Zoe, and I am in 10th grade at St Michael's Collegiate in Hobart, Tasmania! I am currently taking the Positive Psychology GOA course!

6 comments

  1. Zoe this is extremely sophisticated work, with excellent data and practical suggestions for helping deal with the issue you have worked on.
    I love the idea of the app and strategies you have outlined to help keep women safe.
    It is such a topical and current issue to focus on, and I love the mental health suggestions and is very inclusive of other groups of people, ie LGBT as well.
    love it!

  2. Zoe, you have done an amazing job of making us all aware of the issues around women and their safety. It is definitely an area in which we all at some stage feel, I know I have, and I love the idea that there can be a way to move forward and support all people walking home. Well done!!

  3. Congratulations Zoe on the work you have done for this project. I think your idea is excellent! An app to provide women with relevant up-to-date information for their area, alongside positive psychology resources, would be of great assistance and help to promote safety.
    It is tragic to think that we live in a world where the reality for so many women is regular harassment and abuse; the more information and awareness that can be shared is one important part of helping to solve this long-standing issue and your ideas would help to contribute to the making things better! Well done and thank you for taking on this project!

  4. Hey Zoe,

    Your project is very eye opening and talks about the harsh reality in a very good way. I think if you and everyone else keep spreading information about this it will help a lot of people.

  5. Wow!! This was amazing! Personally, i am a big advocate for women’s safety and the fight against sexual assault. this was so well done!

  6. Good job on your project! This topic is obviously a massive problem in today’s society (and has been for years) but I really think that society and media have begun to shed a lot of light on these issues and sought out ways to combat sexual assault, primarily amongst young females. That said, I think it’s really important to not place blame or responsibility on survivors and instead, change the conversation to teach males and any predators that their actions are not okay, nor are they “provoked” by survivors. I also appreciated the vast amount of solutions you provided, especially the ones to promote better mental health among those who have experienced (first hand or second hand) sexual assault, however, one of your solutions stated that we should work on “believing all survivors”. I see this to be a little bit problematic only because, as more cases regarding sexual assault are reported, it can be easier to blame others for things that didn’t happen for economic gain and other reasons. Despite this, I think it’s best to believe all survivors (as you said) until evidence proves otherwise, considering how many cases are entirely overlooked. In all, you did a really great job of providing ways to support survivors and their mental health, as well as raise further awareness around this issue!!

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