Trigger Warning: This blog post will mention sexual assault and suicide. If you are a survivor and looking for resources, contact rainn.org for 24/7 help or text “home” to 741741.
1. SA Awareness Month
Nearly every month has an “awareness” to it, and it’s so ubiquitous that many pass by without mention. But as I do this blog, which is entitled “5 Things to Pay Attention To This Week,” I want to be aware of real issues that we may otherwise not think about. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Every 68 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. While this includes all Americans, the hardest hit communities are women, trans folk, and young people. The after effects are horrific, including suicide attempts and completions, suffering from PTSD and developing drug addictions. As a survivor, SA is never something that truly “leaves” you. It almost feels like a chronic condition that affects your relationships, mental health, and view of the world. I acknowledge that there are myriad experiences of survivors. Pay attention to your circle this week, making sure you are an open and safe person to process with. And as stated before, many resources can be found with RAINN at rainn.org.
2. Stress Awareness Month
I did not know that this was a thing, but as stress affects our bodies in so many ways, it makes sense to raise awareness. All of us can likely identify with being “stressed out.” Our jobs, families, friends, and other obligations can overwhelm and engulf us. Stress leads to both mental health problems , such as anxiety disorders, as well as physical health problems, including heart-related issues and life expectancy. Each person needs to develop a toolbox that works for them when working to reduce stress. For you, this may include art, mindfulness/meditation, aromatherapy, walking, and receiving a hug, if you are comfortable with that. Not all of these suggestions work for everyone, so this week, take some time to reflect on healthy coping strategies when things get to be too much.
3. Autism Awareness Month
I was most familiar with April being dedicated to this, and there has been controversy surrounding awareness of Autism. This month I learned that the organization “Autism Speaks” doesn’t speak for all people with Autism. In this article, Paula Jessop, an Autistic woman who advocates for the “radical acceptance of Autism,” talks about how the symbol of a puzzle piece can be problematic. She asserts that people with Autism aren’t part of a “puzzle,” or an unknown mystery. She states clearly that a rainbow infinity symbol, representing neurodivergence, is a widely accepted symbol in the Autistic community. Other critics have claimed that the color blue being used to represent Autism plays into stereotypes of Autism being something that only effects men and boys. This week, pay attention to the neurodivergent people in your life who want to be represented as an individual first, and a “part of a whole” second.
4. Fair Housing Month
The housing crisis has hit my city of Goshen, along with many other cities across the USA. Housing opportunities are scarce, much less affordable housing. When I lived in Washington D.C., I worked for an organization called “Pathways to Housing” that believed in a “housing first model,” which means that housing people is not conditional on their “progress” in a program of any sort. One need not “get clean” to deserve a house, and we often talked about the solution to homelessness is to house the homeless. This is getting more and more difficult as options dwindle. I sometimes hear people say, “Isn’t there Section 8 housing for people? Why don’t people just live there?” What’s not talked about is the lack of availability, gentrification, zoning laws, racism, and other barriers to fair housing. In 6 states and the District of Columbia, people need to earn at least $25 an hour to afford to be housed. This is simply not everyone’s reality. Advocacy can be done on a local and national level, and this week, think about ways you can enact change in your community by advocating for housing for all and reducing the criminalization of being unhoused.
5. National Garden Month
On a lighter note, it’s National Garden Month! During the pandemic, my pastor mentor visited peoples’ gardens as a way to keep connected with people and meet safely outside during the warm months. So many people take pride in their gardens and spend great care and time to make them beautiful and vibrant. In this post, I’ve included a picture of the peace roses planted in honor of my dad that bloom at my house, courtesy of my housemate as I appreciate gardens but only have a “light green” thumb. This week, ask people about their gardens. I bet they would have a lot to say!