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April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, an annual observance dedicated to supporting survivors, uplifting their stories, and highlighting the importance of crucial sexual violence prevention work in our communities.

Since the rise of the #MeToo movement, survivors have been dealing with higher national visibility in media. While this brings much-needed visibility to an important topic, sometimes that heightened visibility makes survivors feel unsafe or vulnerable. It’s important to understand every survivor’s story is different and the healing process does not look the same for everyone. We need to listen to survivors and support them. This April, we proudly stand with survivors and we acknowledge that while some people find catharsis and empowerment through sharing their experiences with sexual violence, others choose not to share their experiences for a variety of reasons.

Planned Parenthood is committed to combating sexual violence by working together with our allies to support survivors and create a culture of consent. Ensuring young people have access to sex education that includes consent and healthy relationships helps prevent sexual violence. As the nation’s largest provider of sex education, Planned Parenthood helps people communicate about sex respectfully and confidently, make the best decisions for their lives, and engage in healthy relationships. Consent is an essential part of having safe, fun, and healthy sex and relationships.

We know there’s a lot of information about consent out there, so here’s how we define it:

Freely given. Consenting is a choice you make without pressure, manipulation, or being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Reversible. Anyone can change their mind about what they feel like doing, anytime. Even if you’ve done it before, and even if you’re both naked in bed.

Informed. You can only consent to something if you have all of the information you need. For example, if someone says they’ll use a condom and then they don’t, there isn’t full consent.

Enthusiastic. When it comes to sex, you should only do what you WANT to do, not things that you feel you’re expected to do.

Specific. Saying yes to one thing doesn’t mean you’ve said yes to other things. For example, consenting to going to the bedroom to make out doesn’t mean you’ve consented to have sex.

Planned Parenthood is committed to making sure all people have the information, resources, and skills needed to make healthy decisions about their bodies and relationships. Unfortunately, The Trump-Pence administration and its allies are advancing policy that makes it harder for folks to access the resources they need.

The Trump-Pence administration is trying to roll back essential Title IX guidance and weaken protections for students who are survivors of sexual violence on campus. This not only disregards the safety of students who report sexual assault, it also attacks our nation’s program for affordable birth control and reproductive health care.

The Trump administration’s changes would weaken Title IX protections for sexual assault survivors, increase protections for those accused of sexual assault, and lessen the responsibilities that schools have to protect students. This puts students’ health and safety on the line and leaves them without a roadmap to justice. When it becomes more difficult for people to report, it also becomes more difficult for them to get the support they need. This could leave survivors without access to vital reproductive health care services. We can’t let this stand.

Fortunately, these dangerous rules that are weakening protections for survivors are not going unnoticed. Young people across the United States are raising their voices to support survivors and push back against the Trump-Pence administration’s attacks. Learn more about the proposed changes to the Title IX program and how you can raise your voice to support survivors.

As Planned Parenthood and our allies continue to combat attacks on survivors of sexual assault, we reaffirm our commitment to creating a world where survivors feel safe, supported, and validated. We acknowledge that survivors’ experiences and stories are diverse and may not fit into mainstream narratives of sexual violence, but are nonetheless valid.

Planned Parenthood continues to stand with all survivors of sexual assault by respecting their decision to share or not share their experience; by offering vital sexual and reproductive health care in a safe and nonjudgmental environment; and by supporting better policies to prevent and respond to sexual assault. Now is the time to make strides towards a culture in which consent is the norm and everyone has control over their bodies and lives. We will stand up, push forward, and continue organizing for change for survivors of sexual violence during and after Sexual Assault Awareness Month. It’s on all of us to create a better future—and we can do it if we work together. 

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