Turning sexual assault awareness into sexual assault prevention
April 18 2017

Heidi Stevens
Chicago Tribune

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but awareness is only half the battle.

“The next step is prevention,” said Corielle Heath, founder and president of Chicago-based nonprofit liftUPlift Worldwide. “People need to know what they can do and what they can say to stop sexual violence.”

To that end, liftUPlift has partnered with YWCA Chicago to launch Sexual Assault Prevention Week. Starting Sunday and running through April 28, Heath will lead free, daily seminars at six locations to train people to recognize warning signs of an assault and to intervene if they witness one.

“People hear, ‘If you see something, say something,'” Heath said. “But you need to know what to say and what you can do.”

Many of us don’t. My colleague recently wrote about being groped on Michigan Avenue — in daylight, walking with a male friend — and not knowing what, if anything, she could do about it. When we discussed her essay as a staff, most of us agreed we’d have no idea what to do in her position — or the position of a witness.

“We’re specifically focusing on bystander intervention,” Heath told me. “Rather than teaching self-defense, we’re teaching what to do — as parents, as peers, as community members — to prevent sexual violence, to intervene if you witness someone being groped, to say something if you overhear people using what Trump called ‘locker room’ language.”

When Donald Trump was elected president, the Chicago Foundation for Women launched a 100 Day Fund to inspire community members to advocate for gender equality during the first 100 days of his administration. The group awarded grants ranging from $500 to $2,500 to groups and individuals launching projects that would benefit women and girls in and around Chicago, and liftUPlift received a grant to fund Sexual Assault Prevention Week.

Heath became a certified sexual violence prevention educator in 2007 at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. She’s hoping to reach 500 people with her seminars week.

“Some of the feedback we get from people who go through the training is that it’s life-changing and eye-opening,” Heath said. “Sometimes it’s the first time people truly understand what sexual assault is. We want people to leave feeling empowered to create a cultural change.”

I can’t think of a better way to turn awareness into action.

Sexual Assault Prevention Week seminars are free and open to the public. Times, locations and registration information is at liftuplift.com/sap-week.

 

Read the original article here.