Sexual Assault Awareness Month is April.
April provides everyone a special opportunity to team up with communities and organizations to focus the world’s attention to the mission of reducing sexual assault, supporting survivors, and opening the door to having discussions on long-term approaches to cultural transformation on an annual basis.
How? Many communities, school districts, universities, organizations, and military installations host educational events to both change behaviors and to look ahead at what each of us can do to help with reducing sexual assault and building a culture of consent and respect. By having a consistent month to host this event, these communities and populations can look forward each year to April.
Why One Month for Sexual Assault Awareness Month?
Some people will ask, “Shouldn’t those efforts to reduce sexual assault be done on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis?” Yes and many people are committed to working on a daily basis to make a positive impact, such as our team here at The Date Safe Project and the thousands of professionals and volunteers working at:
- State coalitions
- Sexual assault crisis centers
- SARCs, Victim Advocates, SAPR, SHARP and Resiliency professionals on military installations
- Departments such as Residence Life, Gender Equity, Title IX, Women’s Centers, Student Affairs, Greek Life and Athletics on university campuses.
While people are working diligently on a regular basis to make a difference, we also know that many organizations and institutions struggle to devote specific time for addressing consent and respect. For those who do not discuss it regularly, April often gets them to do so on an annual basis. What kind of effectiveness can one month have on the overall movement? If a single event in April results in a community or organization helping create long-term transformation, then April being Sexual Assault Awareness Month results in lives being changed. And that is the goal of April–to make a positive impact and to honor the strength of survivors around the world.
Example: Sexual Assault Response Coordinators on a military installation work daily to reduce sexual assault and to help support survivors. What is the difference in April?
They can get the entire military community to focus on engagement on the topic months in advance to ensure the impact of April is incredibly positive. By drawing large attendance at events all in one month, survivors get to see how many people care and support them. Attendees may be awakened to a personal need for transformation by experiencing one of the programs.
Recently, I was conducting trainings during April for military installations overseas. After training sessions, military members shared behavior changes they were going to make based on being mandated to attend.
Did all these people want to attend? No, and they admitted that fact. Yet the mandated training was different than they expected; they opened their minds to a new possibility and then took ownership of the changes they realized were needed in their own lives. Here is a quote from a Sailor:
“It was the best ‘SAPR’ training that I’ve ever been to and I’ve been to a lot. I thought it was very entertaining and very thought-provoking.
I went into it upset that I had to get into uniform and go to base on my day off, but I’m glad I saw the presentation and I’m going to try not to be negative about similar training in the future. Thank you.
There were individuals there, myself included, that needed to hear your words in such a bold and blatant manner. You showed us that it’s OK to not feel obligated to your partner and that assault is the predator’s and the predator’s fault alone in any and all cases.”
Could this lesson have been realized at any time of the year? Yes, and at the same time, the focus of April helped ensure the fantastic attendance that occurred at this event and got this military professional to attend on a day off.
Honoring Sexual Assault Survivors
Many communities and organizations host events and educational programs focused on honoring the strength and courage of sexual assault survivors, such as “Turn Back the Night,” that can include a march, educational chants, and hearing from survivors sharing their journeys. To see hundreds of people marching through a community honoring survivors is an awesome show of support for many survivors that rarely gets to see such public support.
Addressing Sexual Assault in Your Community
What will you do in the remainder of April to help make a positive impact in your community? If you are already working on events in your community, please share what those events are in the “comments” section below.
Do you believe educational programs should be a year-round occurrence? If so, great! Join the many who are working every week to do just that. Contact the National Sexual Violence Resource Center or your local sexual assault crisis center for more information on how you can get involved!