How would you define Love? What does consent mean? As a bystander, what can I do to help? These are just a few of the questions that youth are discussing as part of Project DOT, an initiative launched by our partner organization New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault (NYCAASA) in the US. Using the hashtags #EverybodyToldMe and #NobodyToldMe, Project DOT is flipping the script on the #MeToo discussion to focus on and highlight signs of a healthy relationship. The goal is to help young people challenge the way they are talking about sex, consent and relationships.
The pioneering program aims to self-empower youth from underserved communities (LGBTQ+, Black, Latinx and East, Southeast, and South Asian groups). Project DOT gives these young people, often without access to traditional prevention and education programs on sexual violence, as well as healthy relationships, a platform to define and share positive messaging to:
Dream (of a world where sexual violence is nonexistent),
Own (our thoughts and unique voices),
Tell (our stories and bring new knowledge back to our communities).
Working directly with young people to get the message out
The numbers speak for themselves. According to UNICEF 15 million adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 have experienced forced sex in their lifetime and 9 million of these girls were sexually violated in the past 12 months worldwide (2014). In 80% of sexual assault cases, the abuser was known by the victims, which increases the risks of incest.
In the U.S., 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused before their 18th birthday.
Project DOT works hand-in-hand with youth to co-create impactful social media campaigns that tackle this issue. The innovative project uses social media to assemble an engaged community where young people can speak out and share positive messaging through blogging, video and graphic content. The end goal is to bring a progressive change in social norms shifting from relationships based on violence acceptance and victim blaming to more sustainable and healthy relationships.
The mission of the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault is to prevent sexual violence and reduce the harm it causes through education, advocacy and research.
Artwork by Vicky Leta