April is Sexual Assault Awareness month in the United States. The goal is to raise public awareness about sexual assault and to educate communities and individuals about how to prevent sexual violence.

Think about it. Do you know someone who has suffered some sort of sexual assault in their lifetime? Most of us do. It may have been abuse suffered as a child at the hands of a parent, relative, or family friend. Or it could have been an especially aggressive boyfriend who just wouldn't take no for an answer. It's all around us and ignoring the problem won't make it go away.

I spoke with Tamar Mathieu, Executive Director of Rape Response Services in Bangor about the problem and what we can do. She says it's important to start at a young age, teaching our children to respect one another.

Pay attention if someone tells you they've been abused. You may be the first person they've told. This includes children and the elderly. Sexual violence knows no age limit. Seniors are too often abused by their caregivers, who think no one will believe them, or they won't be able to tell. It's much like the abuse of children. So if your parent tells you they think their caregiver is treating them inappropriately, don't dismiss it as senility.

Rape Response Services poses the question, "What can we do to prevent sexual violence," and offers the following answers...

-Question how the media portrays masculinity and femininity.

-Talk to people about consent.

-Ask friends and peers to think about the words they use.

-Invite a sexual violence prevention educator to talk with your business, community organization, or school.

-Listen to and support survivors.

-Support child sexual abuse prevention in your community.

Learn more about sexual assault at the Rape Response Services website. And if you believe you're being abused, call their toll-free hotline at 1-800-310-0000.