“There is help out there:” Project Celebration addresses online safety for Sexual Assault Awareness Month

“There is help out there:” Project Celebration addresses online safety for Sexual Assault Awareness Month
Project Celebration, Inc., a nonprofit based in northwest Louisiana which aids victims of sexual assault, is focused on online safety as part of its 2021 'Sexual Assault Awareness Month' campaign. (Source: None)

SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - Project Celebration, Inc. (PCI), a nonprofit based in northwest Louisiana whose mission is to aid victims of sexual assault, is addressing the dangers lurking on the internet.

April marks Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). Project Celebration’s 2021 SAAM theme is ‘We Can Build Safe Online Spaces.’

“Lots of harassment goes on online... even before the pandemic, lots of people are using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat,” said Angela Henderson, assistant executive director of Project Celebration, Inc. ”Perpetrators are there, people who are grooming children are there.”

Signs of online abuse

PCI aims to address how the internet continues to play a more substantial role in nearly every aspect of society — from education to dating. The organization wants to equip users with tools that can be used to protect loved ones.

“There is help out there,” Henderson added. “Workplaces, organizations, what they can do is implement policies where they can pinpoint behaviors that are not appropriate and hold those accountable.”

With students spending historic amounts of time learning virtually, and with different internet-based tools — exacerbated by the pandemic — PCI says parents need to be especially focused on defending their children.

“More kids are doing virtual learning, lots of kids are playing games on different platforms on social media,” she said. “Those who are perpetrating those offenses are on these sites.”

Unfortunately, Henderson added that those who are grooming young adults online often disguise themselves as pre-teens and teens themselves.

“They reach out to this vulnerable population, who may be having things going on at home or what have you, and they groom them and meet them in different places,” Henderson said. “I think it’s important for parents to have conversations with their children, sexual assault and sexual violence is a taboo subject.”

Protecting your child from online abuse

Henderson believes parents should go as far as creating an ‘internet contract’ with children — giving them access to devices and accounts.

“I know that sounds crazy to those who may not have children... a lot of kids have a lot of time on the screen — too much time I would say,” Henderson explained. “I figured if parents are paying the bills, they should be privy to those passwords.”

As part of its 2021 SAAM campaign, PCI has created a series of upcoming events to educate the public and raise awareness. Here is what is still ahead:

  • Friday, April 16th — Teal Talks Watch & Discussion Party on “Rape Culture” at noon. Check social media for registration.
  • Tuesday, April 20th — Teal Talks on location to discuss “Building Safe Online Spaces.” Join us on Facebook Live at 10 a.m.
  • Wednesday, April 28th — “National Denim Day” Join PCI & Zonta Club of Shreveport to make a social statement by wearing jeans as a visible means of protest about the misconceptions surrounding sexual assault. Post pictures using the hashtags #DenimDay #DenimDay2021 #SAAM2021 #PCI #ZontaShreveport

For more information on scheduled events, or to volunteer, call Angela Henderson at (318) 227-7900.

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