April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month
At SBU and all around the country, we acknowledge Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) every April. It is an opportunity for groups and individuals and communities to acknowledge survivors and take action against sexual violence.
History of SAAM
The history of SAAM stems from the early 1970s, when survivors of sexual violence came together and began to speak out about their experiences. These rallies and demonstrations were part of the created the modern movement to end sexual violence.
The social activism regarding the issue of sexual assault continued growing beyond the 1970’s, along with increased awareness about the dynamics and impacts of violence as well as support for survivors. Survivors and advocates continued to mobilize political action over the next few decades, resulting in legislation such as the Violence Against Women Act of 1993 (VAWA). In 2001, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) launched the first SAAM campaign with the goal of raising awareness and promoting education about sexual violence, promoting consent, ending victim-blaming, and showing support for victims and survivors. With input from survivors, activists and advocates, they also identified teal as the color of sexual assault awareness. In 2009, the Obama Administration officially recognized April as National Sexual Assault Awarenss Month.
Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) 2021
Each year the NSVRC identifies a specific theme for SAAM, and April 2021 - which marks the official 20th anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness Month - focuses on the theme of “We Can Build Safe Online Spaces.” This campaign promotes strategies for developing, promoting, and creating safe online environments, specifically protected from sexual harassment and abuse. As technology is evolving and becoming a more significant factor in our everyday lives, it is essential for us to recognize and promote the importance of creating safe spaces in online environments and communities.The “We Can Build Safe Online Spaces” campaign promotes strategies to practice consent and support survivors and victims online. Furthermore, the goals for this year’s campaign include education about topics relating to affirmative consent online, combating cyber sexual abuse, and creating safe spaces for digital intimacy.
To observe SAAM and show support for survivors and victims of sexual violence, we encourage SBU students to check out CPO’s SAAM 2021 calendar - get involved, learn more, and show your support for survivors. Use the hashtag #seawolvesforsurvivors, like and reshare our posts, and make your own contributions during our Denim Day and Consent campaigns!
NSVRC also encourages communities to post a selfie to Twitter or Instagram using #SAAM2021 to promote awareness and support for victims and survivors.
Denim Day: Wednesday, April 28, 2021
Denim Day is a campaign which is held on a Wednesday during April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. In the 1990’s, an 18 year-old girl was sexually assaulted by her driving instructor in Italy. The Italian Supreme Court stated that since the victim was wearing tight jeans, she must have helped the man who raped her remove her jeans, implying consent. The charges against the man were dismissed. The next day, women in the Italian Parliament came to work wearing jeans in solidarity with the victim. Peace Over Violence created this campaign in response to the case to bring awareness to victim blaming and the myths surrounding sexual violence.
For 22 years, the organization Peace Over Violence has led a powerful movement to promote solidarity and support for victims and survivors of sexual violence by exposing the detrimental attitudes and behaviors surrounding sexual violence today. For more information on the history of Denim Day, visit www.denimdayinfo.org. Also keep an eye on CPO’s social media for more information about this year’s Denim Day at Stony Brook.
Take Back the Night
Take Back the Night events are an integral part of the history of sexual violence awareness and activism events in the US
During the 1970’s, grassroots activism began forming into state coalitions, resulting in more organized and directed awareness and response efforts and activism, and survivors began sharing their stories.In 1971, New York Radical Feminists holds the first ever speak-out on rape with around 300 women in attendance.
The first Take Back the Night event occurred in 1978 in San Francisco, with over 5,000 participants
- Approximately 1 in 5 (21.3% or an estimated 25.5 million) women in the U.S. reported completed or attempted rape at some point in their lifetime. About 2.6% of U.S. men (an estimated 2.8 million) experienced completed or attempted rape victimization in their lifetime. (NISVS, 2015)
- Approximately 1 in 6 women (16.1% or an estimated 19.2 million women) and approximately 1 in 10 men (9.6% or an estimated 10.6 million men) experienced sexual coercion (e.g., being worn down by someone who repeatedly asked for sex, sexual pressure due to someone using their influence or authority) at some point in their lifetime. (NISVS, 2015)
- A majority of female victims of completed or attempted rape first experienced such victimization early in life, with 81.3% (nearly 20.8 million victims) reporting that it first occurred prior to age 25.
- The majority of male victims (70.8% or an estimated 2.0 million) of completed or attempted rape reported that their first experience occurred prior to age 25. (NISVS, 2015)
For anonymous, confidential help available 24/7, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) now.
Organizations like VIBS and LI Against Domestic Violence are available to local residents, and those living anywhere in New Your State can also contact the New York State Hotline for Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence at 1-800-942-6906, or visit www.nyscasa.org.
If you are not on Long Island or are out of New York State, learn more about your local resources on line or by contacting the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE, or visit www.rainn.org.
References and Additional Resources
Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs (WCSAP)
National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC)
Take Back the Night: National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC)
Statistics: National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS, 2015)