April is empowering women: Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April+is+Sexual+Assault+Awareness+Month+which+has+encouraged+many+women+to+speak+out+about+their+experiences.+

Natalie Richmiller

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month which has encouraged many women to speak out about their experiences.

Natalie Richmiller, Photo Manager

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month which has encouraged many to share their own experiences. Social media has become a safe space where victims can freely discuss and receive support from others, some of whom are also survivors of assault. 

One in five women experience attempted or completed rape, and over 50% of offenders are intimate partners. Every year, over 450,000 Americans become victims of rape or sexual assault. This only includes recorded cases, as many victims struggle with or choose not to report their experiences. Sexual violence can have long-term effects on victims, including PTSD, depression and anxiety, drug abuse and strained relationships. 

TikTok has been an outlet that has allowed victims to better deal with their trauma. Many survivors have used the app to post what they were wearing when they were sexually assaulted; there is a misconception that it was the victim’s fault because they were “asking for it” by wearing scandalous or provocative clothing. Senior Sarah Kustes agrees that victims are never at fault for their assault. “Clothing does not matter when it comes to a person invading you on that level. Wearing clothes that show skin is not ‘asking for it.’ Males and females get sexually assaulted no matter what clothing, and it is the assaulters fault, not the victims,” she said. The purpose of these videos are to show that clothing should not justify sexual assault and that most girls were wearing everyday clothes when it happened to them. In addition, many times they were too young to possibly “ask for it.” It also shows that even if someone was wearing clothes deemed as “scandalous” or “provocative” they are still not at fault. 

Others have posted videos revealing their assaulter in hopes of regaining control and preventing it from happening to someone else, while some have explained their experiences. Many victims have also shared the long-term effects that sexual assault has had on their mental and physical health. These women have done this with the intent to show other survivors that they are not alone. Senior Claire Horsfield commented on the community the platform provides. “I think TikTok can allow people who have been sexually assaulted to get support and connect with others since, sadly, many women have experienced sexual assault,” she said.

Even those who have not personally experienced sexual assault have also shown their support to victims of sexual assault. They have done this by validating their feelings and reminding them that they are not to blame.

While TikTok has allowed for a great community of support, it has also allowed horrible “trends” to be started. Last year around this time, a threatening video was posted to the platform calling for April 24 to be “National Rape Day.” Users warned women to stay inside and be prepared for self-defense. 

This threat has not been revisited this year, but other vicious claims have been posted. There have been millions of comments trying to disregard and invalidate the victims’ feelings. Other videos have been made in order to make fun of sexual assault. Both of these can be extremely harmful for victims and can set back the healing and grieving process. “It can be a very supportive app but it also can be a very negative app, like any social media. When people aren’t supportive in the comments, it may be triggering to the victims and lead them to rethink if it was their fault,” Kustes said.

The same platform that has helped victims deal with their trauma has also caused damage at the same time. “Many times sexual assault victims are scared to speak out because they think people won’t believe them and trends like this cause more victims to stay silent. I think TikTok should take down these videos and ban the people who make them,” Horsfield said. TikTok’s guidelines have frequently been questioned but this has generated more controversy. Many think TikTok should have more restrictions to prevent these types of trends and comments from being posted. Having more restrictions would create a more positive environment on the app. 

Despite some negativity, this month has been extremely empowering for women. It has given them the courage to speak out about their experiences with sexual assault and TikTok has provided the platform necessary to do so. More resources have also become available for victims who need support. The National Sexual Assault Hotline number is 1-800-656-4673 and there are a variety of websites and resource centers geared towards helping sexual assault victims.