What You Need to Know About Sexual Assault Awareness Month

  • 44% of sexual assault victims are under the age of 18, and 15% are under the age of 12.
  • 68% of sexual assault cases are not reported to police.
  • Rape and sexual assault victims are 26 times more likely than the general population to abuse drugs, 6 times more likely to suffer from PTSD, and 4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.
Graphic taken from the NSVRC's website for Sexual Assault Awareness Month this April.
Image via NSVRC’s website for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

These statistics, taken from a Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) publication, are just a few of the things I learned after hearing about Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). RAINN is just one of several national organizations that supports SAAM, a month-long, United States-based event that centers around bringing the facts on sexual assault and preventative measures to the public.

SAAM is coordinated by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) and has been observed every April since 2001. The annual campaign is represented by the color teal, usually in the form of a ribbon. This year’s theme — inspired in part by the recent pandemic of reported rape cases on college and university campuses and by the recent film The Hunting Ground — is “Preventing Sexual Violence on Campus.” Campaigns to recognize SAAM include workshops held nationwide at universities and local centers, marches and rallies, and special events to address separate areas of the rape crisis.

Denim Day has been celebrated since 1999 in Los Angeles and the United States, corresponding with Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April. It might have a cute name, but its origins are a lot more serious — originating from a 1999 rape case in Italy that went all the way to the Supreme Court of Appeals in Rome.

After being raped by her 45-year-old driving instructor during a lesson, an 18-year-old girl took her case to court. Her rapist received 34 months in prison but appealed the sentence. After finally reaching Italy’s Supreme Court, the sentence was repealed after the judges used what some Italian lawmakers called the “jeans alibi.” Since the victim was wearing very tight jeans, she must have helped the man remove them. Therefore, the court determined that she had given consent, and her rapist was let off with simply a ruling of indecent exposure. The next day, female lawmakers began a “jeans strike,” in which they wore jeans to Parliament in protest of the court’s decision. Women in the California Senate and Assembly did the same, leading to the first Denim Day in LA only two months later.

This year, in support of education on rape and sexual violence and to stand by rape survivors, you can participate by wearing jeans on Wednesday, April 29.

You might ask what else you can do this month to recognize SAAM. There’s a lot, but you could participate in one of the many marches or races, like Take Back the Night’s “Walk the Walk” or “Run for the Night,” or you could even hold a gathering of your own. You can make a tax-deductible donation to RAINN, NSVRC, or one of the many other rape prevention and education organizations. Sharing some facts and prevention tips with friends and family or supporting a loved one who has experienced sexual assault could perhaps be some of the most effective ways to support the anti-sexual assault movement.

The emergency resources listed below, as well as the NSVRC and RAINN websites, offer services for victims and their families.

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1(800)656-4673
Safe Helpline for victims of sexual assault in the military: (877)995-5247
1in6.org offers resources specifically for male victims.

 

Susannah Sherwood
Susannah Sherwood is a biochemistry major at Seattle University with a deep love for writing, reading, music, and coffee. She dreams of a future in which she can pursue her passion for science while making time for the causes and people she cares about.

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