April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This year’s theme, “Engaging New Voices,” builds on the idea that we are stronger together, and that new partners and community members are needed to expand sexual assault prevention efforts. We can all help the next generation foster attitudes that promote healthy relationships, equality and respect.

In the U.S., nearly one in five women, and one in 71 men, are victims of sexual assault, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. In Maine, 14,000 residents will experience sexual violence each year, while only 373 rapes or attempted rapes will be reported to law enforcement, according to the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

I myself am a survivor of sexual assault; I dedicate my time to supporting victims as an advocate, and am working with the National Sexual Violence Resource Center to help change the culture that contributes to sexual violence in our society.

We all have a role to play in preventing sexual violence in our community. Our actions, big and small, have a ripple effect on those we teach, guide and influence. From modeling healthy behavior to addressing inappropriate conduct, everyone can make a difference.

Changing beliefs that contribute to sexual violence starts with believing survivors of sexual violence when they share their stories. You can help by calling out victim-blaming comments or rape jokes if you see them online. Remind those around you that sexual assault is never the victim’s fault. Seemingly small actions like this make a critical impact.

Get engaged and involved this April during Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Join us in embracing your role in ending sexual assault. Learn more about how you can use your voice to change the culture at nsvrc.org/saam.

Katherine Rushlau

Portland