Safe: A New Digital Magazine Focused on Ending Sexual Violence

“In the last year and a half, we’ve seen an uproar against sexual violence like never before,” says Together for Girls Director Michele Moloney-Kitts. “From Delhi to Steubenville, it’s been incredibly encouraging to see unprecedented responses to cases of sexual abuse. Events that once would have been shrouded in silence instead garnered widespread attention—both from those who protested them and those who covered them in the global media.”

In response to this worldwide prevalence of sexual violence, Together for Girls—a public-private partnership focused on ending violence against children, particularly sexual violence against girls—launched Safe—the first digital magazine designed to help stop the pandemic of sexual violence. By sharing the courageous stories of survivors of childhood sexual abuse, offering tips on how readers can protect themselves and their children, and highlighting how individuals, NGOs, national governments and communities are fighting violence, Safe aims to inspire its readers to take action.

In honor of National Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April, MTVact interviewed Joya Taft-Dick, Global Health Corps fellow and Communications and Youth Advocacy Officer at Together for Girls about the magazine. A preview of the interview is included below and the full interview is available here.

ACT: For our readers who don’t know, what is Safe magazine? Where can we get it?

JOYA: Safe magazine is the first-ever digital magazine taking on the issue of sexual violence, and it’s produced by Together for Girls. Safe is accessible at any time online at www.issuu.com/safemag, and readers can even download the new issuu.com app and read the magazine on their mobile devices. While sexual violence may sound like heavy subject matter, Safe tells the truly uplifting stories of those who have not only survived violence, but have for example, gone on to win a gold medal at the Olympics, or become an advocate for the cause on a global stage.

It shares some of the data that is successfully generating real action from communities, governments, and international organizations to prevent and help survivors recover and thrive. And it offers ways for readers to get involved in tackling this issue in their own community — providing tips on local campaigns, iPhone apps, or Twitter handles to follow.

The reality is this: we live in a world where one in three women will experience sexual violence in her lifetime and one in six men. We also live in a world where one billion children face abuse EVERY YEAR. These numbers are astronomical, and quite frankly, dwarf almost every other epidemic we face. And yet, as a global community, we aren’t talking about it remotely at the scale that it deserves.

Thus, the idea behind Safe was born: let’s put this issue that impacts every country the world over on our virtual coffee table, and let’s put an end to this deafening silence.

ACT: What are some of your favorite features in the issue?

JOYA: I am profoundly inspired by the young individuals who have come forward with their experiences of violence – despite how terrifying that can be – and who are using those same experiences to help others. As a community, we have much to learn from these brave individuals and their stories. Take Kayla Harrison, our cover story subject. She was abused by her judo coach, who she trusted and looked up to, for years, starting at a young age.  Finally, at 16, she had a friend in her life who sensed something was wrong, and he asked the right questions, with just the right amount of persistence. When Kayla told him about the abuse, he believed her, and he supported her in getting the help and justice she deserved.  Kayla’s abuser is now behind bars, and she went on to be the first American to win a gold medal at the Olympics for judo.  But this isn’t just a story with a happy ending: it also speaks to the fact that kids are often abused by the people they know and trust. Our data shows that, like Kayla, very few children — or even adults — ever talk about their abuse and experience.  It underscores the importance of believing survivors when they come forward, and supporting them so they can better heal and move on.  And it highlights the very real possibility that you can really go from surviving to thriving, whether you win an Olympic gold or not!

ACT: What’s been the response to the magazine from readers?

JOYA: The response has been overwhelmingly positive!  It has been wonderful to hear from some of the 50 heroes we highlighted that are helping to end sexual violence. They’ve told us this kind of acknowledgment has really inspired them to keep fighting the good fight, so to speak.  It’s extremely difficult to get up every day and deal with issues like sexual violence — especially against kids! — and yet there are so many amazing people doing just that. So, it’s great to be able to celebrate even just a few of these inspirational advocates, and we have every intention of continuing to celebrate them and the many other success stories and programs out there!

ACT: What is one thing you think everyone should know about sexual violence?

JOYA: There are actually three things I think everyone should know. First, people need to realize and acknowledge that sexual violence is happening at unacceptable levels, from college campuses in the U.S to public buses in India, and it’s not just a “women’s issue.”  It’s happening to our kids, it’s happening to men, and it’s happening A LOT. Second, while daunting, we can end this violence, but not if we stay silent about it. We have to start talking about it and ensuring that it is properly placed on our social, economic and political agendas.  Third, and most tangibly, I think everyone should know that if you or a loved one experiences sexual assault, you can prevent both HIV and a pregnancy, if you get medical care as soon as possible within 72 hours following your assault (and you can do that at a health center without engaging the police if you don’t want to.)  The HIV prevention treatment is called “post-exposure prophylaxis,” or PEP, that will reduce the risk of HIV infection by more than 90 percent. Also, there is emergency contraception available that can help prevent pregnancy, best taken as soon as possible, but some for up to even five days.  I wish everyone knew this!

For more information on Safe, visit the recently launched Safe blog to join a worldwide online community dedicated to ending sexual violence.