One nonprofit recently received a grant to support its creation of Sexual Assault Prevention Week. And good news! That’s this week.
The Chicago-based organization, liftUPlift, focuses on ending sexual violence. By partnering with and supporting women-owned businesses, liftUPlift teaches people how to prevent sexual violence and works with shelters around the world to aid survivors of sexual violence. With April already designated Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Corielle Heath, the founder and president of the nonprofit, saw an opportunity to grow the organization’s horizons and expand the opportunities for people to get involved with the month’s message.
Heath believes that having a month dedicated to raising awareness of sexual violence is a step towards eliminating the problem. “The next step is prevention,” said Heath. “People need to know what they can do and what they can say to stop sexual violence.”
After partnering with the Young Women’s Christian Association in Chicago and receiving a grant from the Chicago Foundation for Women, liftUPlift was able to schedule several free seminars aimed at teaching people about the warning signs of sexual violence and how to intervene when they see those signs. Heath explains the decision to focus on bystander intervention: “People hear, ‘If you see something, say something,’ but you need to know what to say and what you can do.” She continued, “We’re specifically focusing on bystander intervention rather than teaching self-defense. We’re teaching what to do – as parents, as peers, as community members – to prevent sexual violence, to intervene if you witness someone being groped, to say something if you overhear people using what Trump called ‘locker room’ language.”
It’s clear that sexual violence is not as actively combated as it should be, with many people having stories of their own about times they or someone they know has endured unwanted advances. In one reporter’s recount of her experience being groped in broad daylight, she was surrounded by bystanders who didn’t intervene. Moreover, RAINN claims that 1 in every 6 American women has been raped or has been a victim of attempted rape. Sometimes when bystanders overhear a woman saying things like “I’m not sure,” “Heck no!” or nothing at all to someone who is unwilling to wait for consent, the bystanders don’t know how to safely approach the situation and offer help to the victim.
This Saturday marks the end of Sexual Assault Prevention Week, but Heath hopes that the seminars make a lasting change in the way people acknowledge and respond to sexual assault. “Some of the feedback we get from people who go through the training is that it’s life-changing and eye-opening. Sometimes it’s the first time people truly understand what sexual assault is,” said Heath. “We want people to leave feeling empowered to create a cultural change.”
For anyone in the Chicago area who’s looking to be a part of the cultural change, liftUPlift still has a handful of seminars and events scheduled for this week. Celebrate Sexual Assault Prevention Week by becoming a force of positive change.
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