In just the last week, the topic of sexual assault has been front and center. Allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, opened the door for victims to say, “Me Too.” The goal for the campaign is to show that sexual assault is unfortunately far too common. Megan Waters, Rape Prevention Coordinator for the Utah Department of Health, joined Emily Clark on Good Morning Utah to talk about local resources for victims.
Waters role at UDOH includes hosting sexual violence prevention activities statewide, and administering grant funds to community based organizations to help implement sexual violence prevention activities.
Awareness is an important step towards dialogue. Waters says sexual violence is often not talked about and seen as a taboo or inappropriate subject, and raising awareness about the realities of the impact of sexual violence is a great way to knock down some of the barriers in truly addressing the issue. Once people are aware there is a problem, they are more willing to engage in action, taking the steps necessary to prevent it from happening. Awareness-raising can be an avenue to increasing readiness for prevention efforts.
When asked if she’s seen a difference in reports or calls since the #MeToo campaign, Waters responded that she is unsure at this time. She says calls of sexual violence go to a law enforcement agency or community based advocacy organization.
In order to move forward, the next step after awareness, Waters says, is to follow through. Primary prevention is the department’s main focus, which means their programs aim to stop violence from ever occurring in the first place. Waters says more prevention is absolutely essential, and it’s critical to provide information, especially to youth, on healthy behaviors and consent. Another focus is to help others be responsible bystanders when witnessing someone harming another person with words or actions.
As a society, Waters wants society to be more supportive of victims and reduce the ‘blame and shame’ reaction toward victims.