Peace Corps Vanuatu Staff wearing denim for Denim Day

April 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, an annual observance dedicated to sexual assault awareness, prevention, and outreach efforts.

This year’s SAAM theme is We Can Build Safe Online Spaces — because sexual harassment, assault, and abuse can happen anywhere, including online spaces.

From apps to online dating websites, there are many ways people are connecting online. Although you aren’t talking face-to-face with someone, consent still needs to be communicated along the way. You should always consider how your actions might make another person feel and ask questions if you don’t know.

Unlike in-person interactions, there may not be body language cues, like eye contact, that can indicate how someone is really feeling. So when we communicate online, it’s important to develop new ways to recognize others’ boundaries and give them the space to recognize our boundaries as well. If we shift from making assumptions to clearly communicating our boundaries and asking questions when we’re not sure, we can create a pathway to more respectful online spaces.

We show respect for ourselves and for others in everyday ways when we practice consent. Consent sets a baseline for using our actions and words to demonstrate the value of others through respecting their limits. Consent gives us a framework for how to communicate boundaries and understand how our choices impact others.

As we connect online, we can learn how to practice digital consent, intervene when we see harmful content or behaviors, and ensure that online spaces — whether they be workspaces, classrooms, social media platforms, or otherwise — are respectful and safe.

When you ask someone for consent, they need to know specifically what they’re agreeing to, so make sure what you’re asking is clear. Consent also needs to be voluntary, so those who are agreeing should be doing so freely and 100% by their own choosing, without pressure, guilt, or coercion from the person asking.

Peace Corps Vanuatu Staff is also participating in the Denim Day Campaign. What is Denim Day?

Denim Day is a campaign in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The campaign began after a ruling by the Italian Supreme Court where a rape conviction was overturned because the justices felt that since the victim was wearing tight jeans she must have helped the person who raped her remove her jeans, thereby implying consent. The following day, the women in the Italian Parliament came to work wearing jeans in solidarity with the victim. Since then, what started as a local campaign to bring awareness to victim blaming and destructive myths that surround sexual violence has grown into a movement. As the longest running sexual violence prevention and education campaign in history, Denim Day asks community members, elected officials, businesses and students to make a social statement with their fashion statement by wearing jeans on this day as a visible means of protest against the misconceptions that surround sexual violence.

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