Sexual Assault: Starting the Discussion

April 18, 2014

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.  Now, don’t worry, I’m not going to try to be gruesome here, I just want to start a discussion.  I think that’s the first step: initiating a conversation so people feel okay with talking about their experiences without fear or shame.

Sex is a big talking point on college campuses: who’s doing it, who isn’t, who remembers it, and such things are not uncommon to hear on the air while walking between classes on a Monday morning.  The thing that I find ironic is that most of these conversations happen in hushed tones or behind closed doors.  For something that is on a person’s mind so much, we sure are afraid of talking about it.  That’s part of the problem: generally, people are not open to discussing these topics in public because of negative connotations that may be associated with anything sexual.

The problem of keeping mum is worsened even more when the sexual thing that someone is afraid to talk about is sexual assault.  According to, an American is sexually assaulted every two minutes.  That’s a lot of people. One person may not seem significant, but that one could be your friend, sibling, classmate, relative… or the scariest: you.

Sexual assault awareness month is about being courageous enough to offer resources to someone who has been sexually assaulted.  Part of that is being brave enough to put the topic on the table in a respectful manner so that someone feels okay about sharing an experience.  I think that when this atmosphere is created the healing process can begin.

It is important to know where to go for help when something like this happens in our lives.  Sometimes, people aren’t ready to talk about it with friends and family, though I hope that the people surrounding them have created an environment of safe discussion. There are always, ALWAYS, help lines and resources like centers or shelters to turn to.

  • National Sexual Assault Hotline – 1.800.656.HOPE .  Local crisis centers can be found nearby at .
  • The PAAR (Pittsburgh  Action Against Rape), for anyone who has experienced sexual assault, has a 24/7 hotline and their facebook page is


Written by Michaela Lies, writing intern at Three Rivers Community Foundation and student at Washington & Jefferson College.