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3 Things You Can Do for Sexual Assault Awareness Month

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April 2, 2014

April is sexual assault awareness month. If you are a college student, you might be aware of this because April is when campuses host Take Back the Night. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, “the month of April has been designated Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) in the United States. The goal of SAAM is to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence.”

This year’s SAAM campaign is about “healthy sexualities and young people.” Studies have shown that young people are not immune to sexual violence. The 2013 NO MORE Study, which “explored attitudes toward, and experience with, dating abuse/violence and sexual assault among teens aged 15 to 17, and among young adults aged 18 to 22” reported some troubling findings:

  • One-in-two of every young man and woman in this country knows a victim of either dating violence or sexual assault (51%)
  • 44% know someone who has been a victim of dating violence; 30% know someone who has been a victim of sexual assault
  • One-in-two young women (51%) say they know a victim of dating violence

Here are a few things you can do to raise awareness of sexual assault:

3. Know SAAM history: Whether you had heard of Sexual Assault Awareness Month before, it’s important to the history of why we have SAAM today. Sexual violence doesn’t affect everyone the same. Women of color are more at risk than white women. Age, disability, military status and sexual orientation are all factors that play into who/how often/likely someone is victimised. Organizations like The National Organization of Sisters of Color Ending Sexual Assault, Know Your IX, National Sexual Violence Resource Center and this Department of Justice page  are all great places to educate yourself and find resources.

2. Wear the Teal Ribbon to show your support: Ribbons are a simple way to raise awareness about an issue. Pink ribbons are now associated with breast cancer. The teal ribbon is the designated symbol of sexual assault awareness month. As to how a teal ribbon was chosen:

In 2001, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) conducted a brief survey on the issues of color and symbol, and discovered that teal was the color most often used and preferred for Sexaul Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). On the subject of symbol, about half of the respondents preferred the use of a ribbon to anything else.

1. Plan an event: Planning an event, whether it’s Take Back the Night, or hosting a movie night (The Invisible War is streaming on Netflix), is always a good way to raise awareness. You don’t have to do it alone either. Events are a great way to build coalition with students groups on your campus/community. I am lucky to be on a campus where our annual Take Back the Night (which has been happening since 1978) brings together the campus’ feminist organizations, LGBT organizations, anti racist activist groups and other groups and allies committed to social and reproductive justice. For ideas on event planning for sexual assault awareness month, visit this NSVRC page. They have resources on this year’s campaign and what you can do in your community.

Awareness doesn’t start and end in April. Everyday, people all over the country and abroad work hard to bring an end to sexual violence. Thank you and keep up the hard work. It’s up to us all to end this epidemic. I’m doing my part, are you?

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