April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), a time when we come together to increase awareness about and learn ways to prevent sexual assault, sexual harassment, and other types of sexual violence. The first SAAM was celebrated in 2001, following years of advocates holding events, marches, and observances related to sexual violence in April.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many traditional ways of raising awareness have been put on pause — or changed to ensure safety, like our first-ever virtual Walk a Mile in Their His Her Our Shoes event (register here!). However, there are still ways that you can create change as an individual. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Learn about sexual violence. Many myths and stereotypes about sexual abuse persist, which makes it more difficult for us to prevent this type of violence. Spend some time learning about this issue. For example, did you know that every 73 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted — or that only 5 out of every 1,000 rapists will end up in prison? Spend some time on our website to learn more about sexual assault, sexual harassment, and other forms of abuse.
Turn your social media teal for SAAM. When SAAM was first celebrated in 2001, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) and the Resource Sharing Project polled organizations like Blackburn Center that are devoted to ending this type of violence. As a result of this survey, the NSVRC adopted a teal ribbon as a symbol of SAAM. You can add one to your social media profile picture by following these instructions.
Walk a Mile in Their His Her Our Shoes. You can create awareness in your own community by participating in our Walk a Mile event. This year, our Walk will be virtual for the first time ever! Registration is free, and you’ll be entered into a drawing when you register. Click here to register!
Learn about our work. Blackburn Center is the community-based organization in Westmoreland County dedicated to providing services to victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence and other forms of violence. We offer a 24 hour hotline (1-888-832-2272), a temporary emergency shelter, counseling and therapy, support groups, medical advocacy/accompaniment, legal system support, and civil legal services. In addition, we offer a wide range of services to the community, including free educational programs for schools, churches, and community groups, training programs, and free educational materials for parents and educators. Our team also partners with local colleges and universities to help to achieve our ultimate goal of ending violence in Westmoreland County.
Encourage your workplace, school, community organization or other group to participate in SAAM. Ending sexual violence in our community requires action from ALL of us. You can help by reaching out to people in your life who may not be aware of just how common this type of abuse is — or what they can do to help. You could ask your work to participate in Denim Day, where individuals can wear jeans to work in exchange for a donation to a local nonprofit (like Blackburn Center!), register as a team for our Walk, or even host a training and education program.
Speak out. There are far too many myths and misperceptions about sexual violence — and too little understanding of the scope of the problem. After spending some time learning about sexual assault, sexual harassment, and other types of sexual violence, use your knowledge to educate others and spread awareness! You can do this by sharing on social media, starting a conversation with friends or family members, or even by saying something when you hear someone make an offensive joke or spread a falsehood about sexual violence.
It may seem impossible to take on a big problem like sexual violence on your own. Yet when we each commit to making change in small ways, we can make a big difference — during Sexual Assault Awareness Month and throughout the year.
As always, if you need help, we are here for you. Our hotline is available 24 hours a day, is free of charge, and can be anonymous. Call anytime at 1-888-832-2272.