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April 30, 2020

Breaking down the silos: Honoring April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Different members from Women’s Advocates’ Staff periodically write posts on topics that are relevant to the work we do as an organization.  While Women’s Advocates is supported by Grant No. A-CVS-2018-WOMADV-00013, awarded by the Office on Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs – the opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice.  

“Professionally we have silos, and we operate in these silos we’ve got to break down. Across the country, people working to prevent child abuse are right across the hall from people working on violence against women, and they don’t work together. As we go into communities to bring everybody to the table, don’t let people say, ‘I work on child abuse, but this is about gang violence.’ Don’t let people say, ‘I work on violence against women, and this is about child abuse.’ This thing, all this violence, is connected.” –Deborah Prothrow-Stith, MD, Adjunct Professor, Harvard School of Public Health

We cannot have a conversation about domestic violence without talking about sexual violence. And we cannot have a conversation about sexual violence without talking about domestic violence. In Minnesota and beyond, there are incredible initiatives, organizations, and movements to end domestic violence and to end sexual violence. Throughout the nation, you may notice that these initiatives are oftentimes separate and siloed. All of these organizations are working toward similar and interconnected goals- to end gender-based violence

Women’s Advocates, as a domestic violence shelter, is committed to recognizing and promoting April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month #SAAM since we know that for many of the women and children that we walk with on their journey of healing, sexual violence is also apart of their story. In previous years, April has been a busy month for the Education and Outreach program at Women’s Advocates. From community panels about how to end sexual violence to presentations on sexual violence and consent, to tabling events to raise awareness about sexual assault resources, our calendar is filled. This year, we are hoping to provide more information about this interconnection and provide self-care resources and suggestions to continue to link these two forms of violence. 

Here are some ways that these issues are connected:

  • Many of the social norms, beliefs, systems, and behaviors that contribute to the prevalence of sexual violence, also contribute to the prevalence of domestic violence. 
    • It is important to provide education about consent when discussing healthy relationships. Sexual violence prevention is also contributing to intimate partner violence prevention. 
  • Survivors of one form of violence are more likely to be victims of other forms of violence. Many people who have experienced sexual violence have also experienced a form of domestic violence. 
    • Girls who are sexually abused are more likely to suffer physical violence and sexual revictimization, engage in self-harming behavior, and be a victim of intimate partner violence later in life. 
    • Youth who have been physically abused by a dating partner are also more likely to have suffered abuse as a child, been a victim of sexual assault, and witnessed violence in their family.

Ideas for how to connect sexual violence and domestic violence. 

  • Organizations should collaborate with one another by co-presenting together, hosting panels and events that discuss how these two issues are related to one another. 
  • Organizations should know about each other’s work, resources, and services. 
  • Sharing social media posts to support one another and continue raising awareness of various resources. 
  • Promote education in school settings that work to prevent both sexual and domestic violence. 

Organizations that provide educational offerings. 

Learn more about these interconnected topics by scheduling a presentation or attending a webinar provided by any of the following agencies: 

How You Can Help 

Written by Brenisen (bwheeler@wadvocates.org), Education and Outreach Coordinator at Women’s Advocates 
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