I get the impression that the people in my life think I have the saddest job in the world.
I feel like a ticking time bomb at gatherings where questions about careers break the ice. It might not surprise you that the topic of sexual violence is not the most welcome of dinner guests.
On the occasion that people do want to talk to me about my job it's typically because of something they read in the news. The rest of our conversation usually involves me trying to debunk a myth or troublesome headline. Other times, people will have a sad reaction or confused face. I can see them trying to figure out an appropriate way to respond. Then there are the gentle "thank-you's" and faces that share a knowing pain.
Sexual Assault Awareness Month each April has a different tone. President Barack Obama and leaders across the country proclaim the importance of ending sexual assault. Media coverage, public service announcements and prime time television amplify the call to action. College students and community members march in the streets. Out and about, I see teal ribbons, posters and displays sharing statistics, facts and local resources. People are talking about sexual violence in homes, schools, workplaces, communities of faith and online. Although it's true year-round, each April voices come together with one message: sexual assault is widespread and impacts everyone.
It means so much when voices come together to talk about sexual assault. As an activist, it's one of my favorite times of the year. It makes me wonder about what the world would look like if every month were April. What if everyone invested this much effort in ending sexual assault every day?
A month on the calendar is a place to start, but there's only so much that can happen in 30 days. I think we are ready to go beyond awareness. It's time to start talking about ending rape.
The facts are out about alarming rates of child sexual abuse and sexual assault on campus. Research tells us that rates are even higher among women of color, especially Native American women who experience the highest incidence of sexual violence. The significant impact on LGBT communities is documented, and these individuals often have fewer resources available to them. People commit sexual violence against older adults, people with disabilities and men and boys. Yet, we don't often hear their voices. It's time for social change.
Ongoing conversation about sexual violence is an opportunity to dig deeper. It's an opportunity to look at the bigger picture and think critically about the root causes of sexual assault. It means acknowledging rape culture. For change to happen oppression and inequality must be challenged. Healthy sexuality and consent need to become the norm.
What would it look like to end rape? It's a vision for healthier communities and safer societies. It's a big vision, but I believe it's possible. A world without sexual violence is a better world for all. Change is worth working toward.
Sexual violence prevention is a full-time, year-round job. For change to happen, it takes investment on every level, and many voices need to come together -- just like they do each April. There's a role for everyone to play.
It's time to think bigger than April. How can you use your voice to end sexual violence?
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center in conjunction with Sexual Assault Awareness Month. To learn more about the NSVRC and how you can help prevent sexual violence, visit here. Read all posts in the series here.
Need help? In the U.S., visit the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline operated by RAINN. For more resources, visit theNational Sexual Violence Resource Center's website.