By: Grace Fansler, MPH, Prevention & Education Program Coordinator
April was the 18th anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM)- a month that calls national attention to sexual violence awareness and prevention. While we work tirelessly year round to increase awareness of sexual violence, prevent sexual violence in our communities, and advocate for the rights of survivors, we appreciate and support the national opportunity to highlight and champion sexual violence prevention.
The History of SAAM
In the U.S. the civil rights movement sparked a large scale push for social change and equality. During this era, sexual violence prevention efforts were championed by Black female activists and female activists of color. While working for the NAACP, advocate Rosa Parks actually helped lead a national campaign against sexual violence towards Black women (Brown, 2018). Social activism continued to flourish in the second half of the 20th century, and advocates across the country began to hold marches, observances, and events during “Sexual Assault Awareness Week” in April (NSVRC, 2019). In 2001 the NSVRC launched the first SAAM, and they have continued to develop and distribute campaign materials for spreading awareness and prevention messaging to coalitions, crisis centers, colleges, and other community groups across the U.S. (NSVRC, 2019)
I ASK: for Consent
This year’s theme is ‘I ASK’ which focuses on ASKING for consent and RESPECTING the answer. Consent is freely given and can be reversed at any time. Consent requires an informed decision that is specific, and cannot be obtained without an enthusiastic, affirmative YES. Consent cannot be coerced or pressured, and part of consent is respecting the answer, even if it is not the answer you want. Consent can NOT be given if a person is asleep, unconscious, drunk, high, or otherwise incapacitated. Sexual activity that occurs without consent is ILLEGAL. So how can we prevent sexual violence? By ensuring others’ boundaries are not crossed by asking for consent.
SAAM at MCASA
MCASA participated in several SAAM events this month. We provided outreach at multiple community and military health resource fairs, and provided training to public school teachers, IPV advocates, and students. One effort we would particularly like to highlight is our event with Blake High School during the last week of April. Students were inspired by the events of the past year to create #BlakeToo and they came to us with the idea for a Sexual Assault Awareness Week at their school. At MCASA we think it is never to early to become advocates for sexual violence prevention and were excited to co-coordinate this multi-day event! If your community group would like assistance with future advocacy and prevention events, give us a call at 301-328-7023 or email us at [email protected]
Brown, D. L. (2018, January 30). How Recy Taylor's brutal rape has become a symbol of #MeToo and #TimesUp. The Washington Post.
National Sexual Violence Resource Center. (2019). History of sexual assault awareness month. Retrieved from: https://www.nsvrc.org/saam/history