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April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Each April, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center promotes Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) to increase awareness and prevention of sexual assault, harassment, and abuse. 

This year marks the 21st anniversary of SAAM and focuses on “Building Safe Online Spaces Together”.  

What is online sexual abuse?

Online sexual abuse can be any type of harassment, exploitation, or abuse that takes place through screens. Forms of online sexual harassment or abuse include:

  • Sending someone unwelcome communication about sex or hateful comments based on sex, gender identity, and/or sexual orientation.
  • Sending partners, friends, acquaintances, or strangers unwanted requests for nude photos or videos or to livestream sexual acts.
  • Performing acts on webcam without the consent of everyone involved or in inappropriate settings. 
  • Sharing private images or videos without the consent of everyone involved (also known as revenge porn or nonconsensual pornography).
  • Sharing porn in spaces where not everyone has consented to view it (for example, in inappropriate spaces like Zoom meetings, where this is also called Zoombombing).
  • Grooming children to enable their sexual abuse either online or offline.

Get the facts!

Online harassment is no less harmful because it happens online. As the content is often public, un-erasable, and can reappear at any time, victims often experience lasting harm. Consequently, online harassment is just as emotionally damaging as in-person contact.

A nationwide study conducted in early 2021 found that 41% of Americans over the age of 18 have personally experienced online harassment. Another 27% reported having experienced severe forms of online harassment such as physical threats, sexual harassment, and stalking. The same study found that while the harassment is not increasing, the severity of the harassment has. Since 2014, the amount of sexual harassment online has more than doubled from 5% of Americans to 11%.

With the ever increasing severity of the level of harassment online, learn how you can get involved to help build safe online spaces for you and your family.