Many a month has a cause attached to it. We wear ribbons, organize walks and post a meaningful Facebook status update about the cause at hand. Make no mistake about it—one month of organized activism can make a difference in someone’s life.
This April, you may see an increase of teal, the color representing Sexual Assault Awareness Month, or SAAM. The purpose of SAAM is to elevate the public level of awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities and individuals on how to prevent this crime. This will be the 13th year SAAM has been recognized, though protests against sexual violence started in the ‘70s with Take Back the Night marches in England, where legions of women protested the violence they were experiencing as they walked the streets at night. The movement soon headed over to the U.S. and Take Back the Night protests appeared in San Francisco and New York City. In October, domestic violence was recognized with its own month of awareness, so sexual assault survivors decided to focus the world’s attention on this problem in April.
“The goal [with SAAM] is to increase awareness and let survivors know about resources available to them in their community,” says Anna Marjavi, program manager with Futures Without Violence, a national nonprofit aimed at advocacy to end violence against women. Like domestic violence, there often can be silence surrounding cases sexual assault and, Marjavi adds, “Sadly, sexual assault is an often-present dynamic of domestic violence.”
Why the silence? It can be a combination of factors—fear to speak out against one’s attacker, shame or feelings of guilt over what happened, or a lack of awareness that what occurred was even a crime at all, especially when it happens within a marriage.
Last year’s slogan for SAAM was “It’s time … to talk about it. Talk early, talk often. Prevent sexual violence.” SAAM advocates not only urge survivors to come forward, but also encourage parents to talk early about healthy childhood development and healthy sexuality as a way to help prevent sexual abuse in children.
To find a SAAM-related event in your community, visit nsvrc.org/calendar. To find a sexual assault resources near you, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE.
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