It’s hard to miss them on television. Popular sports stars, young athletes wearing college jerseys, famous actors – all proclaiming “No More.” Part of a three year public service announcement campaign directed by actress and advocate Mariska Hargitay, NO MORE is a world-wide movement to raise awareness and engage conversation to end domestic violence and sexual assault.
“We really like the NO MORE campaign,” said local sexual assault program coordinator Melissa Dailey. “People who influence pop culture can influence young people. People are more likely to pay attention and listen to the message. Will they take something from it? We hope that they do.”
Like NO MORE, Tri County Council for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault is working against stereotypes to bring awareness to the very prevalent topic of sexual assault.
“Just because someone dresses a certain way doesn’t mean they are “asking for it,”” said Dailey, citing one of the most often heard statements. “No one asks to be sexually assaulted. Just because someone is drunk, or wearing a short skirt or tight jeans doesn’t mean he or she is asking to be assaulted.”
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Dailey has been with Tri County for more than five years as an advocate for victims. One of her roles is facilitating a support group for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.
“It is for primary and secondary survivors,” she explained. “Anyone who is directly affected or anyone who suffers vicarious trauma or is impacted by domestic violence or sexual assault is welcome.”
Knowing the statistic that one in four females, and one in six males will be sexually assaulted before they turn 18, Dailey plans many of her awareness building activities at the high school throughout the year. Healthy relationships is often the focus.
“Sexual assault has very little to do with sexual gratification and very much to do with power and control,” Daily said. “ANY unwanted touch in an intimate area is sexual assault.”
Tri-County sponsored a healthy relationship valentines table during lunch where students could make cards with messages such as “I love you enough to respect you.” She will be back at the school in the days leading up to the prom with similar ‘respect’ messages, and at the end of the month a Chalk Walk will take place at Stevensport Square.
Teens may be at the age where relationships develop and become more serious, but Dailey says open conversations between parents and their children should begin sooner.
“I don’t think any age is too early to talk about it, teaching young kids the appropriate names for their parts and those sorts of things,” she said. “As parents, we can’t be afraid to be in our kids’ business, just having an open conversation. The more open you are with your kids the more likely they are to be open with you.”
The bottom line for Dailey and the other advocates in her field is that she is there to support the victim 100 percent, and without judgment, because not many people do.
“Domestic violence and sexual assault are still under-reported because victims feel it’s their fault. We live in a victim-blaming society,” Dailey reiterated. “We need to be teaching our men, boys, young women to have respect for others and themselves.”