Friday, April 1, 2011

April: The Month to Speak Up

April brings so many exciting things: April Fool's Day (which is in full force in my house), the final onset of Spring and warmer weather, Easter, tax day (ok, that one's not so exciting). But, April is also a month to recognize many great causes, a few of which I want to draw specific attention to today. I hope you will join me in making this a month to remember, and a month to make a difference.

First, April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. As a survivor as well as a long time advocate, this cause is very near and dear to me. One out of every three women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. That means that each of us knows someone who has been a victim. This epidemic will touch each of our lives in some way. And it's time we get involved, learn more, and find out how we can prevent sexual violence and support survivors.

A few ideas for how to get involved:

* Volunteer your time and gifts to your local sexual assault advocacy program.
* Take a stand against sexual violence in all its forms, including victim blaming, sexism (including so-called "jokes"), and sexual harrassment.
* Support survivors. Here are three things to say to a survivor of sexual violence: 1. I believe you; 2. This was not your fault; and 3. I support you.

For more information, visit:

April is also Child Abuse Prevention Month. No one wants to see a child hurt. Yet, child abuse is a persistent problem in our country. Every child deserves to feel safe and loved. The best way to accomplish this is to start listening to children and holding perpetrators accountable for their abuse.

A few ideas for how to get involved:

* Become a supportive person in a child's life. Having just one caring adult can drastically change a child's outlook and chance for success. Be that person.
* Support protective parents. The best way to support a victim of child abuse is to support their non-abusive parent. For example, rather than judge a mother whose child has been abused, ask what you can do to help her.
* Volunteer with a child advocacy or domestic violence program in your community.

To learn more, visit:

April is also Autism Awareness Month. To be honest, autism is something I knew very little about until meeting my nephew. He is smart, adorable, and sweet--and he is also autistic. And after seeing how much his parents fight to get him the support, care, and education that he deserves, I've realized how important it is to raise awareness. He, and all children and people with autism, deserve our love and respect.

A few ideas to get involved:

* Find out more about autism. There are numerous websites, books, and other resources to help you learn more. Take the time to do so.
* Support a family who is living with autism. We all know someone.
* Stop viewing people who have autism as different, and start seeing them as unique, valuable people, who also have something special to teach us.

To learn more, visit:

And finally, April is also the Month of the Military Child. And, of course, I have three adorable reasons to be passionate about this cause. Whether they're at home worried about their parent who's once again deployed, or preparing for yet another cross country move, military children endure incredible sacrifice and heartache, and do so with amazing resiliency. It's time we start showing them the support they deserve and so desperately need.

A few ideas to get involved:

* Thank a military family. Not just the soldier, the entire family.
* Buy a Daddy/Mommy Doll for a military child. Our kids love theirs, and it's great to have something to hug when your parent's deployed. You can order them here:
* Understand that the war is not over. And even after our troops come home, they and their families still have to heal. Help by offering a hug or a shoulder.

To learn more, visit:

It may seem overwhelming to learn about each of these issues, but each is important, and deserving of our time and attention. And they are also all connected: They each teach us that we have a duty to ensure every person in our society has a voice. That does not mean speaking for them. Everyone has a right, and has the ability to, speak for themselves. Whether they are a sexual assault survivor, victim of child abuse, military child, or a person with autism, everyone has a story to share. Our role is to silence the voices of abusers, critics, and those who choose to be apathetic and uninvolved. By silencing these voices, we make a space for everyone to speak their own truth. And that, for me, is the only way to truly raise awareness.

So, for all of these reasons, I’m renaming April “The Month to Speak Up.” We can all take a stand, raise awareness, and make a difference. Won’t you join me?

I will be posting more about each of these important issues throughout the month of April. So, stay tuned for more ways to Speak Up.

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