LiveSmart: April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month – A Time for Hope and Healing
[This story was written by Marissa A. Pascarella, MHC, a therapist with St. Peter’s Crime Victim Services.]
April is an important month for those of us working in the field of victim advocacy. Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) is a time dedicated to educating and engaging the public in addressing this public health issue.
The theme for SAAM 2023 is “Drawing Connections: Prevention Demands Equity.” This year’s campaign is all about bringing individuals, communities, and organizations together to create change within us and the systems surrounding us to create racial equality and respect.
This April marks the 22nd year that SAAM has been recognized. Movements for social change and equity began taking off in the 1940s and ’50s with the civil rights era. Social activism surrounding issues pertaining to sexual violence continued into the 1970s, reaching the pivotal moment of the first rape crisis center being founded in 1971 in San Francisco, CA.
Monumental changes for survivors came in the decades that followed including The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1993, a national effort to address sexual violence. In 2000, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, along with the Resource Sharing Project, polled sexual violence coalitions. Among other results, that poll saw the teal ribbon being selected as the symbol for SAAM and thus this annual campaign was born.
The primary goal in the early years of the movement was raising awareness – getting people familiar with the teal ribbon and its meaning. By the mid-2000s, prevention was heavily incorporated into the SAAM campaign, asking the vital question: how can we stop sexual assault before it starts?
Individuals and communities began having this discussion by identifying the need for behavior changes and promotion of respect. While each passing year has brought different themes and campaigns, these common goals remain.
This month holds different meanings to each person affected by this universal crisis. This includes the person who has experienced assault, people in close relations to the person, and care providers for those persons. If you or someone you know has been impacted by sexual assault, know that help is always available.
Making the choice to begin healing is not always easy. Here at St. Peter’s Crime Victims Services (SPCVS), we offer emotional support as well as in-person medical and legal advocacy, with the comfort and wellness of our clients at the center of all that we do.
For those located in the Capital Region, SPCVS offers a safe space for anyone impacted by violence to begin their healing journey. Survivors can seek short-term support through our 24-hour hotline at 518-271-3257. Outside of our area, The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline which is accessible 24/7 and offers confidential support (1-800-656-4673).
Visit us at sphp.com/crimevictimservices for a list of community outreach events hosted by SPCVS throughout April. Wishing everyone a hopeful and healing Sexual Assault Awareness Month.