Sexual Assault Awareness Month: An Interview with Susie Reynolds Reece, Violence Prevention Strategist & Author
12 Apr 2021
We recently sat down with Susie Reynolds Reece, a violence prevention strategist and consultant acclaimed for her expertise in suicide awareness, suicide prevention and postvention, depression, bullying and other issues facing families and youth today. Skillfully adept at blending the realms of science and research with experiences and storytelling, she engages and compels any person to be equipped to confidently stand up for social issues. Read the full interview:
April is Sexual Assault Awareness month, what can be done to spread awareness for sexual assault prevention?
I sound like a bit of a broken record, for those who even know what that means…. I guess my age is showing there. But to me, education is the key to many issues. Until we know a problem exists, it doesn’t. Even then, we can’t necessarily do anything about it. We need skills, but more basic than that, we just need to be able to confidently talk about these things. So if you’re out with your friends and you see a situation happening that could be dangerous, you can say something and help.
Too often, we let these issues stay big because we aren’t able or willing to step in when they’re small.
Why is it so difficult for many of us to have conversations around sexual assault, and violence in general?
Honestly, I think part of it is in how it’s presented. Let’s face it these are all tough and heavy topics, for many people, it feels better to ignore them and hope they never impact us personally. The thing is though, that many of us have been impacted by acts of violence in one way or another.
I believe it’s vital that advocates, activists, and social issues educators make addressing these issues more relatable and even enjoyable. No, talking about violence will never be fun or easy but finding ways to connect, creating activities to build community, and finding the beauty in one another are all ways to lessen violence. And each of these things can be much more impactful and exciting than looking at the problem alone.
What can we do as community members to help this problem for those being affected?
Learn how to speak so you are informed and approachable. Speak out and let people know you care. Often people feel alone and as though they can’t talk to anyone. Change the conversation and let them know you are there to support them. And work to learn more about the issues that are impacting people so you can be a true ally.
For many stepping in when they see or notice something can be uncomfortable, daunting, and scary, how do we become stronger citizens and develop the strength to intervene?
‘I tell everyone that we can all learn simple, effective, and realistic ways to step in and help. Being aware of situations and having the skills to intervene safely can manage a crisis or even completely disarm a situation. And anyone can do it, even youth. It’s all in how we teach people to be proactive.’ So the short answer is education, and the long answer is education, education, education.
The 2021 SAAM theme is “We Can Build Safe Online Spaces.” How important is creating safe online spaces to the ongoing sexual assault awareness conversation?
Creating safe online spaces is vital to ongoing awareness. I mean, think about where most of us go to find information, to communicate, and to connect. We are learning from our online activities and by creating safe spaces online, we are both illustrating the importance of providing psychological safety for everyone, but also demonstrating how it can be done. That how can be brought back into physical spaces as well and help us foster stronger and safer communities anywhere people are gathered.
What are some interchangeable skills or practices that people can bring to the table to lower sexual assaults in both the in-person setting and the online setting?
Learning how to speak up when they see behaviors or communications that are aggressive or could lead to unsafe situations. Practicing speaking up online can be a great stepping stone toward safely stepping in, in an in-person situation. Communicating to those in your network that you are a safe person, should they ever need an ally or someone to help them in a difficult situation. I think we really forget that one a lot. We forget to let people know we will back them up when they might need it most. Both of these are small actions that can be done in either realm and lead to large impacts.
What are some resources men and women can use if they are a victim of sexual assault?
The National Sexual Assault Hotline is a free national resource for anyone needing support in any capacity the number is 1-800-656-4673.
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization: https://www.rainn.org/
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center: https://www.nsvrc.org/