April is both Sexual Assault Awareness and Child Abuse Prevention Month, and it is no coincidence these topics are recognized in the spring.
Spring is when we think about new life taking hold around us, trees with tiny green shoots, flowers emerging from their dormancy, and neighbors emerging from hibernation after winter's blast. Therefore, spring is the perfect time to shed our silence about uncomfortable topics that impact every community: sexual violence and child abuse.
Statistically, each of us has a family member, friend, neighbor or coworker who has been a victim of childhood or adult trauma.
They may have difficulty in school or work, battle substance abuse issues, eating disorders, or high blood pressure - each condition a possible after-effect of assault and/or abuse.
I share these details not to overwhelm you, but to underscore that each of us is impacted - and each of us plays a role in breaking the cycles of abuse and victimization.
So what can you do? First and most important, believe and support the victim. Let them know that what happened was not their fault. While that sounds like common sense, the practice of victim blaming - or responding to violence with questions like: "Why did she drink so much?" - is still alive and well.
Second, to borrow a line from airport security, if you suspect something, say something. You can safely report your concerns to your local police, to the Department of Children and Families (DCF), and you can refer the victim to New Hope's round-the-clock, confidential hotline (1-800-323-4673).
Finally, educate yourself and insist that your schools, community groups and faith communities integrate these public health issues into their education curriculum.
Talk to your elected officials about legislation and activate your social networks to change laws to increase the safety and security of survivors.
Volunteer at organizations like New Hope, who deliver care to adult and child victims of violence. In the words of Hillel: "If not now, when? If not you, who?"
The writer is executive director of New Hope Inc., a nonprofit working to end domestic and sexual violence in our communities.