Sexual Assault Awareness Month is an annual campaign to raise public awareness about the importance of sexual assault prevention and sexual violence education. Each year during the month of April, state, territory and tribal community based organizations, rape-crisis centers, government agencies, businesses, campuses and individuals plan events and activities to highlight sexual violence as a public health, human rights and social justice issue in an attempt to reinforce the need for prevention efforts.
Historically, Sexual Assault Awareness Month has been used to advance certain campaigns. For instance, in 1990, in Massachusetts, The Clothesline Project began donating where they donate shirts created by survivors of violence. In the early 1970s, in response to sexaul assaults and violence against women, local communities organized Take Back the Night marches and rallies to unify individuals against violence towards women in their communities. More recently, in 2001, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes began as an international men’s march to stop rape, sexual assault, and gender-related violence.
The need for Sexual Assault Awareness Month is greater needed now more than ever. Sexual violence is a serious public health problem that impacts millions of people across the globe. In the United States, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men have experienced sexual violence involving physical contact at some point in their lives.
Sexual assault more specifically impacts underrepresented groups in our community. Almost half of women of color have reported some kind of sexual harassment, and 73% of transgender identifying individuals have been sexually assaulted by the time they are of twenty-five years of age.
All that being said, statistics underestimate the problem of sexual violence, as many victims do not report their experiences to the police, family, or friends in fear of rejection, justification, or no one believing their experiences.
As it is April, I strongly urge you to more deeply consider the issue of sexual assault in your communities. Take this time to reflect on the incredibly prevalent issue. Know that silence does not equal consent. Take into consideration that blaming rape victims for the violence perpetrated against them is dehumanizing, and morally deplorable. Understand that you have the responsibility of your own sexuality, and no one else has the right to define it, use it, or make profit of it. Come to terms with the fact that using alcohol and drugs to engage in sexual contact is criminal. Take into account that participating in sexist and misogynistic behaviors only encourages rape culture. Teach everyone you know about the myths and realities of sexual violence. Call out rape and sexual assault jokes. Challenge images of violence against women in advertising and other forms of media. Support all people working to end sexual violence by volunteering your time, and lobbying legislators. Recognize that sexual violence will not end until all people – no matter their gender – become a part of the solution.
By – Maggie Di Sanza