I believe prevention is possible.
I am behind in saying this, so hopefully you already know that April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). This is how behind I am: not only am I sharing this during the last week of the month, I am also highlighting last year's SAAM theme:
My master's thesis research included interviews with rape victim advocates about the emotional reactions they had to their work, the organizational support available to them, and the self-care routines they practiced. At the time (think last millennium), the topic of prevention was not really at the forefront of my mind; but it came up in the interviews I conducted. Specifically, I heard that participating in prevention activities was one way that victim advocates coped with the difficult nature of their job.
Now, almost twenty years later, I better understand. Starting from this belief statement (prevention is possible) has allowed me, for over two decades, to keep my focus on an issue that recoils many. I love that prevention is a leap of faith. I love that the public health approach to violence prevention uses evidence at each of four steps to change the world. Prevention is both mission-driven and evidence-based.
Even a year later, the SAAM 2016 message resonates for me. Maybe the SAAM 2017 theme of engaging new voices speaks more to you? Use your voice to change the culture.
April 26th was Denim Day 2017.
In a previous post, I discussed three stages to community-level change: Unfreeze, Change, and Freeze. I think the observance of both SAAM and Denim Day are examples of national-level "freeze efforts" by champions for change. After years of work that resulted in cultural shifts in the way that United States of America views sexual assault, advocates and activists have now institutionalized widespread protest against destructive attitudes about rape (Denim Day) and a unified national dialogue about the ongoing, pressing need to address sexual violence (SAAM).
Claiming a day or a month each year isn't enough to end sexual violence in this lifetime, but it's a start. These marked-off areas on the calendar, to me, represent brightly colored triangles in the space where squares used to be. They are holding the larger shape of change in place.
And maybe one day really is a bigger deal than it seems.
In the restorative-justice-influenced sanction that required young offenders to participate in interviews with the filmmakers, in the strength of young survivors who took initiative to reach out and support others, in the ways a brother mentors the athletes he coaches: all of these moments in the film remind me that prevention is possible.