By Marissa Luna
April is Sexual Assault Awareness month.
It’s encouraging that more and more people are recognizing that we all need to take responsibility for preventing sexual assault and domestic violence, and ending victim blaming. As Sexual Assault Awareness month begins and we consider the ways in which we can work together to end sexual assault and domestic violence, we must also be allies to survivors.
We’re all too familiar with the startling statistics: one in two women and one in five men have experienced some form of sexual violence in their lives.
Sexual assault is often a part of domestic violence. Domestic violence is most often a pattern of abuse that can be physical, emotional, mental and sexual, while sexual assault is more often a unique attack using sex as the weapon.
Domestic violence survivors live in a land of limited choices. Survivors are at an increased risk of harm shortly after separating from an abusive partner. It is essential that they are able to find shelter, file personal protection orders, attend court dates or receive counseling.
These acts all take time – more time than most of us can imagine. It is not uncommon for survivors to need to be at court five times during the course of proceedings – often times, it is many more. Yet, survivors often struggle to fully access their rights in our criminal justice system because they are unable to take time off work. Without earned sick leave, when survivors miss workdays they are shorted wages and risk getting fired from their jobs.
It is past time for our elected leaders to ensure that survivors have a full range of opportunity for a peaceful life, including the ability to take time away from their jobs to seek assistance for themselves and their families without risking their job or paycheck, by guaranteeing access to earned sick leave.
Together, we can put an end to sexual assault and domestic violence. Together, we can also ensure that survivors have the tools and the time that they need to get back on their feet.