By Hayley Crandall
April marks the 20th anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Dare2Know is encouraging teens to use their voices in their communities to speak up about sexual violence, safety and the value of healthy relationships.
“Our individual voice matters and our collective voices matter,” Kwnwahta Smith, a Dare2Know youth leader, said in a press release. “The patriarchy perpetuates rape culture. As men, it is our responsibility to hold each other accountable and to dismantle the patriarchy to end sexual violence against all people. This April, we are inviting all voices to get the word out not only for support, but also about how to take preventative measures so that our youth can cultivate healthy relationships early on in life.”
Dare2Know, in collaboration with the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault (WCASA) and End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, is striving to inform and inspire teens to rally together in their communities, promoting healthy relationships.
“Our main [mission] is to really end teen dating violence and to really spread the message of healing and healthy relationships,” Cia Siab Vaj, a Dare2Know youth leader said.
A variety of resources are available through the campaign for teens to utilize, such as the Teen Ambassador Program (TAP). TAP allows teens to join the cause and take leadership roles spreading the message in their community, Siab Vaj explained. It’s a great way for them to get involved, she said.
“It’s really for our young people to join,” Siab Vaj said. “Their main goal is to really spread the word about healthy relationships and really end dating violence.”
Other awareness and educational efforts include social media messaging along with digital and radio advertisements throughout the month.
Response has been fueled by a few factors. Statistics collected from recent years outline the impact of sexual assault among teens, the press release explained.
According to the 2019 Wisconsin Youth Risk Behavior Survey from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, nearly 1 in 5 Wisconsin high school students, around 19.9%, reported that someone has forced them to engage in acts they didn’t want to. The same report outlines that 43.4% of Wisconsin LGBT students have experienced sexual assault or coercion.
Concerns have also been raised due to incidents increasing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Siab Vaj said.
“I think because of COVID and the stay-at-home order, you see a lot of violence happening against young people,” Siab Vaj said. “Maybe not reported because it’s not safe but because we do work with a lot of young people and we have a lot of organizations part of our coalition, we know that young people are going through sexual violence.”
Information on getting involved and other resources can be found at the Dare2Know campaign website, https://dare2knowwi.org/.
List of local Wisconsin sexual violence victim resources can be found at https://www.wcasa.org/survivors/serviceproviders/.
List of local Wisconsin domestic violence victim resources can be found at https://www.endabusewi.org/get-help/.