SANE Team Offers Advice on Building Safe Online Spaces Together
JOPLIN, Mo. – “My job is to provide a safe place after an assault, listen to the story and gather forensic evidence,” said Gretchen Tyree, a Freeman Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE). “Some of the victims don't file a police report because they are embarrassed that they put themselves in a bad situation. I always tell them that being assaulted isn't their fault.”
Tyree and other Freeman Health System SANE team members met with media Thursday to call attention to the Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2022 (SAAM) campaign, which has a theme of Building Safe Online Spaces Together.
Sexual harassment, assault and abuse can happen anywhere, including online spaces. Harassment, cyberbullying and sexual abuse and exploitation have come to be expected as typical and unavoidable behaviors online. Now more than ever, screens and technology connect people with romantic partners, friends and family, co-workers and strangers alike.
But there are ways to be safe.
“It is important to get consent/permission before posting anything about anyone else,” said Karen Scott, RN, Freeman SANE Program Coordinator. “If someone posts something about you without your permission, report it. Also be very cautious about sending graphic/sexual pictures, videos or texts to someone. If the relationships sours, that person may forward it – or threaten to do so – to everyone they know and/or your family and friends.”
According to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), about 80% of the time, the perpetrator is known to the victim. However, it is also critical to be cautious about online relationships.
“Little or none of what the person is posting may be true,” said Scott. “Be careful what you reveal about yourself. If you plan to meet in person, meet in a public place. Avoid using drugs or alcohol at these meetings, as they might cloud your judgement or make you vulnerable. Also, the internet is full of opportunities for us to share things about ourselves, but it is important to take advantage of online privacy and safety tips. For example, when signing up for accounts, create email addresses and user names that don’t contain identifying information, such as your full name or birth date and year. You can also consider using a picture that isn’t of you for your profile photo.”
Sexual assault prevention is possible by learning and teaching about consent. A helpful acronym is FRIES –
- Freely given
The 2022 SAAM Day of Action is April 5. The community can show support for survivors of sexual harassment and abuse by wearing teal – the color of sexual violence prevention. People are encouraged to post a selfie on social media.
Other ways the community can help include donating or volunteering at organizations that support survivors or provide direct support by listening to and believing survivors, stepping in when you see injustice happening if safe to do so, create a disruption if you see someone being harassed or speak up when someone makes a joke or inappropriate comment about sexual assault and let them know it is a serious issues affecting many people.
***Photo information: Karen Scott, RN, Freeman SANE Program Coordinator shows the contents of an evidence collection kit to local media.