Fatherhood programs and Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Author: CFFPP . Date: March 29, 2013

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The purpose is to raise awareness of the problem and educate individuals and communities on ways to prevent sexual violence.

There are multiple ways that sexual assault awareness is relevant to fatherhood program practitioners. For the beginning of the month, we’ll discuss healthy relationships. Later in April, we’ll have a post reflecting on adult survivors of childhood sexual assault.

Practitioners can contribute toward the prevention of sexual violence by talking about healthy relationships and healthy sexuality with the men in their programs. A recent study by the NO MORE campaign found that half of the young men surveyed don’t know the signs of sexual assault.

Some people may find it difficult to say for sure what is and what isn’t “sexual assault.” Where do you draw the line? Mostly simply, it comes down to knowing and communicating consent. “Consent” means “permission for something to happen or agreement to do something.” Having conversations with fatherhood program participants about communication, consent, and talking with their girlfriends or partners can help promote healthy sexuality and contribute to healthy relationships.

Fatherhood programs can also talk with men about healthy relationships more broadly. In general, how do men treat or see the women around them being treated? What do they hear being said to and about women? How do these words and actions reflect respect – or disrespect – toward women? How do these words and actions model healthy or unhealthy relationships for children, youth, and others in the community?

Taking the time to think and talk about how women are treated provides a chance to discuss how men would like the women who are important to them to be treated. These conversations don’t need to only be about wives, girlfriends, and partners, but also their mothers, grandmothers, sisters, and aunts. How are the women they love treated? This reflection might give men ideas about ways they want to act toward the women in their lives or how they can be leaders and role models for boys and other men. Participants might want to talk about ways they can support one another in their efforts to create, model, and sustain healthy relationships and healthy sexuality.

For more information or ideas on promoting healthy sexuality and healthy relationships, fatherhood practitioners can consider working with a local women’s advocate who understands the nature and need for fatherhood services. Such an advocate could come to the program to talk with staff or present a workshop to program participants on sexual assault, prevention, and/or healthy relationships.

More resources on Sexual Assault Awareness Month can be found on the National Sexual Violence Resource Center website. Two short papers that might be useful are:

An overview on healthy sexuality and sexual violence prevention

Healthy sexuality: A guide for advocates, counselors and prevention educators

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