Written by: Amadine
Edited by: Sarah
Visual by: Yana
TW: Sexual assault
Sexual assault has been a rampant issue in modern society today. Harassment, abuse, and trafficking can happen anywhere – even in online spaces. Yet, the silence surrounding the topic is still loud.
During this month of April, we are celebrating Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) in efforts to build a safe environment where this silence is broken. SAAM has always been about raising awareness and the prevention of sexual assault, harassment, and abuse. These foundational aims are important as we are faced with two facts: “It’s impossible to prevent an issue no one knows about (as why prevention is a primary foundation), and it’s difficult to make people aware of a problem without providing a solution (as why awareness is a primary foundation)” (SAAM). These are both two parts of a whole, and exist in tandem.
What exactly is SAAM?
SAAM is an annual public movement launched and coordinated by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), along with other organizations that specialize in pursuing the issues surrounding rape, sexual assault, and abuse. The NSVRC aims to address the causes and impacts of sexual violence through collaboration with survivors, prevention, and providing resources for education and awareness. While April 2021 marks the 20th Anniversary of SAAM , the beginning of this movement traces back long before SAAM’s foundation.
In the United States, advocacy towards social justice became widespread with the rise of the Civil Rights Era (40s-50s). During these times, open conversation about sexual assault and violence was limited; however, many started to question the status quo that essentially normalized abuse and violence. A rise in advocacy towards sexual assault was only sparked in the 1970s when social activism started to diffuse across the country. In 1971, the first rape crisis center was founded in San Fransisco, and in the following years, surivors and advocates rallied to call for changes in legislation, which started the “rape reform movement” – for example victims no longer needed evidence to back up testimony. During the month of April, before Sexual Assault Awareness Month was officiated, there would be campaigns, marches and observances held to celebrate this cause. However, in 2009, under the Obama administration, April was officially recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
To bring greater visibility to the teal ribbon, an important symbol representing sexual assault awareness, the campaign has made changes step by step to create impact. In recent years, developments have been made to work more closely with different demographics, like women and the youth. SAAM also started to emphasize the importance of prevention, with focus on communities, workplaces, and campuses. “These campaigns discussed ways that individuals and communities can stop sexual assault before it happens by changing behaviors and promoting respect” (SAAM). In many ways, this has expanded the audience and advocacy for this issue. SAAM is also being celebrated by celebrities and on campuses like Stanford, which has inspired survivors to share their stories on platforms like Instagram and TikTok. Now these apps are used as safe spaces where these survivors can recognize each other and find support.
What the ISM community can do
To celebrate SAAM, you can show your support by doing something as simple as wearing the teal ribbon and reposting posts related to the issue on your social media accounts for awareness. You can also get involved with SAAM directly via the NSRVC. On this page you can find social media guidance, events, information on their Day of Action and the SAAM proclamation. There are many ways we can continue to learn from and support this important movement, and we hope that this advocacy continues even after April ends as we fight for lasting and meaningful change.
Merrigan, JoAnn. “April Is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Advocates Say Help Is Available.” WSAV-TV, WSAV-TV, 2 Apr. 2021, http://www.wsav.com/news/april-is-sexual-assault-awareness-month-advocates-say-help-is-available/. Accessed 5 Apr. 2021.
Sophia, Sophia, and Kiana Williams. The Courage to Speak: Breaking the Silence of Sexual Assault in the Courage to Speak: Breaking the Silence of Sexual Assault in the African American Community the African American Community. , 2013.
“History of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.” National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 2021, http://www.nsvrc.org/saam/history. Accessed 5 Apr. 2021.