Believe the survivor. Embrace your voice. Understand that your words have power.
This is the message being spread this April during Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). A relatively young national month of remembrance, SAAM was first observed by the United States on April 1, 2001. Ever since, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) has promoted the month and encouraged nationwide interaction in an attempt to build momentum to prevent sexual violence within our communities.
Last year, the SAAM campaign’s centralized message was Engaging New Voices. The movement worked to involve voices from people like coaches, parents, those involved in Greek Life, bystanders, and more in the discussion on preventing sexual assault. The goal was to empower those who knew and believed sexual assault was a problem, but didn’t know how to help. With educational toolkits, SAAM gave these voices the tools they needed to engage in thoughtful and proactive discussion.
Building off of the goals from last year, this year SAAM is empowering the individual. The theme for this year’s SAAM campaign is Embrace Your Voice. The purpose of this year’s movement is to inform people on how to use their words to promote safety, respect, and equality in order to prevent sexual assault before it occurs. Such dialogue includes supporting survivors, standing up to victim blaming, shutting down rape jokes, correcting harmful misconceptions, promoting daily consent, and engaging healthy communication with children.
Positive dialogue helps promote self-confidence and rebuild the broken trust, emotional toil, and feelings of isolation that may occur in an individual who has been sexually violated. It is important for communities to support their members and continue to educate the youth so that immoral behavior is corrected, and the cycle of ignoring consent can be cut. This April, listen to someone if they reach out. Educate your peers if they say something insensitive. Remain unified in your support of women who have faced sexual assault, while still acknowledging that men have also had these experiences.
As a sisterhood, we value one another. We value each other’s experiences, opinions, belief structures, and mental health. Let’s stand together in this fight against sexual assault this April. Together, change is possible.