With NO MORE Week in the rearview mirror (and what a wonderful week it was!), the team at NO MORE is already looking forward to April. Warmer weather is nice, but Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) is the main event. Let’s get everyone excited about a concentrated month of activism around such a critical issue.
Military bases, community centers, churches, student groups, and other organizations across the country will host events like Take Back the Night, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, and Denim Day to raise awareness about the devastating impact of sexual assault on almost every community in this country.
SAAM has been observed to varying degrees for decades, but it was not officially designated as a national awareness month until 2001. Now in its fourteenth year, SAAM activism has been instrumental in bringing this once-hidden issue to the forefront of public discussion. We are now all too familiar with the statistics: 1 in 5 women is a survivor of rape, and 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men have experienced some form of sexual violence in their lives (CDC). In recent months, stories of sexual assault on college campuses like UVA and Columbia University, in the military, and by celebrities and professional sports players have dominated headlines. So now that awareness about sexual assault has reached an all-time high, what’s next for SAAM?
“When the community first started organizing, the real square one need was to communicate to people that sexual assault happens, and it happens in their communities,” says Laura Palumbo, Prevention Campaign Specialist at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. “Over time that focus has shifted from awareness to prevention. Now we’re telling people how they can be part of the solution.”
Laura is straightforward: now that we know about the problem, let’s come together to fix it. But activating an ever-expanding base of people to be part of the solution will require huge collective effort. Despite our awareness initiatives, sexual assault still isn’t easy to talk about. For survivors, the subject can be laden with feelings of shame, guilt, and fear, and for others, it can be hard to talk about an issue that is at once so personal and so pervasive.
This April, we need to come together to convince people to be part of the solution. So how do we do that? Check out the NSVRC SAAM website for downloadable tools, suggestions and information in activating your communities and networks.
Need some ideas to get started? April 7th is the SAAM Day of Action and a great day to kick off talking about these issues on social media. If you’re a parent, teacher or mentor, get involved with changing the culture around rape by talking to youth in your life, both boys and girls, about sexual assault and healthy relationships; not simply coaching our daughters to avoid potentially dangerous situations. If you’re attending college, it means holding universities accountable for their obligations to ensure that all students can complete their educations without fearing for their health and safety. Culture change also means supporting members of the military who speak out about sexual assault and harassment. It means creating a culture wherein all survivors feel that their voices are validated, and not scrutinized or silenced.
SAAM presents all of us with a wonderful opportunity to engage new voices, to invite people—people who may never have been a part of this movement—to join us in stopping sexual assault, rape and abuse. After all, sexual assault is not just a women’s issue and it’s not simply a survivor’s issue. It’s everyone’s issue and the solution lies in all of us.