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Alabama observing 23rd anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness Month during April


Alabama is joining other states across the nation in observing Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) during April. Organizers say it’s an opportunity to honor the resiliency and healing of survivors while highlighting an important issue.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), April 2024 marks the 23rd anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. During this observance, individuals and communities are encouraged to draw attention to the prevalence of sexual violence and educate themselves and others on how to prevent it.

Activists say this is especially important on college campuses, including in Alabama, as 13% of all college students will experience sexual assault while attending school.

Over half of women and almost 1 in 3 men have experienced sexual violence involving physical contact during their lifetimes, and 47% of all transgender people have experienced sexual assault at least once. This type of violence has an impact beyond the individual, according to the NSVRC. Racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, ageism, ableism and other oppressive systems contribute to higher rates of sexual harassment, assault and abuse.

The NSVRC reports that even before its official declaration, SAAM was about both awareness and prevention of sexual assault, harassment, and abuse. Looking at the history of the movement to end sexual violence. From the civil rights movement to the founding of the first rape crisis centers to national legislation and beyond, the roots of SAAM run deep.

As long as there have been people who care about making the world a better place, there have been individuals advocating for sexual assault prevention, according to the NSVRC. In the United States, movements for social change and equality began to gain traction in the 1940s and 50s with the civil rights era.

Efforts during this time were championed by Black women and women of color. Advocates like Rosa Parks worked at the intersections of race-based and gender-based violence, a framework that years later in 1989, advocate and professor Kimberlé Crenshaw would call “intersectionality,” according to the NSVRC.

The NSVRC reports wide social activism around the issue of sexual assault continued into the 1970s, bringing with it support for survivors and heightened awareness. The first rape crisis center was founded in San Francisco in 1971, the same city where the first U.S. Take Back the Night event was held seven years later.

In an effort to further coordinate awareness and prevention efforts, in 2000, the newly launched National Sexual Violence Resource Center and the Resource Sharing Project polled sexual violence coalitions. They asked organizations about their preferred color, symbol, and month for sexual assault awareness activities, according to the NSVRC. The results showed that those in the movement preferred a teal ribbon as a symbol for sexual assault awareness, and SAAM was created. Read more about the history of Sexual Assault Awareness Month here.

Also happening this month across the Yellowhammer State and the nation are various Take Back the Night (TBTN) events. Thess are commemorations for those impacted by sexual violence to share their stories, foster allyship and advocate for sexual assault awareness in safe and inclusive spaces.

TBTN events are held annually in over a thousand communities throughout the United States and around the world, according to TBTN has reached more than10 million people in more than 40 countries.

The organization says outreach is continually expanded any and all communities, and all expressions of commitment to ending sexual violence and supporting survivors are welcome. TBTN offers a planning manual, poems and readings, keynote speakers, banners, t-shirts, and other Event gear.

Baillee Majors is the Morning Edition host and a reporter at Alabama Public Radio.
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