WASHINGTON, D.C. — April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and eliminating sexual assault and violence against women is one of NOW’s core issues.
Oftentimes, society only views sexual assault in physical spaces. However, we must take into context how women are unprotected in digital realms as well. That’s why the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) is focusing its attention on “Building Safe Online Spaces Together.”
The Pew Research Center found that the percentage of U.S. adults experiencing severe internet abuse rose from 15 to 25 percent between 2017 and 2022. New technologies have brought new ways to bully, threaten and abuse, with “revenge porn,” “sextortion” and “doxxing” on the rise. Technology has also introduced a culture of “cyberflashing” that hold relatively no consequences to those who participate in this predatory behavior. It is unacceptable that rampant harassment, cyberbullying and sexual abuse and exploitation are considered unavoidable and typical online.
These offenses are rooted in the same attitudes and behaviors that lead to sexual violence committed in person. Toxic masculinity, violent tendencies and attitudes that devalue and degrade women, LGBTQIA+ people, people of color, people with disabilities and other marginalized communities are risk factors for online sexual abuse.
However, the uptick in digital violence isn’t being completely ignored. In our Marie Claire op-ed, where NOW partnered with woman-led dating app company Bumble to tackle online violence, we are exploring states to implement laws to combat sexual violence. In 2019, Texas was the first state to criminalize unsolicited lewd images, making it a Class C misdemeanor. Since its passing similar bills like this have been introduced in New York, Wisconsin, and California.
When NOW was founded, the idea of attacking women online was a thought of the future — and now, we are living in that reality. As we advocate to protect women from violence, we must include digital communities.
The first Tuesday of every April is the SAAM Day of Action. Supporters will wear teal—the color of sexual violence protection—on April 5 and post selfies on Instagram using #SAAM2022. By wearing teal, you are signaling that you support survivors and are a safe person to talk to if they need to reach out.
We can end sexual violence—and the forms of oppression, racism and sexism behind it.
The National Organization for Women (NOW) is the nation’s leading membership-based advocacy group dedicated to defending women’s rights, advancing equality and combating injustice in all aspects of social, political and economic life. Through educating, mobilizing, and convening a vast network of grassroots activists across the country, NOW advocates for national, state and local policies that promote an anti-racist and intersectional feminist agenda. Since its founding in 1966, NOW has been on the frontlines of nearly every major advancement for women’s rights and continues to champion progressive values today. More about NOW’s efforts and resources is available at NOW.org.