April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month!

RC: Hello! This week’s post is not going to be a Q&A; instead, we are going to give a brief description of why Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) matters and write a shameless plug for April’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month events.

AG: Yes! The tough reality is that sexual assault happens and that it happens frequently. National statistics show that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 4 LGBTQ+ individuals experience sexual assault during college. However, we also want to stress that it’s not just women and LGBTQ people that experience sexual violence. Recent research from Columbia University indicates that 12.5% of men will experience sexual assault throughout college. Rates were noticeably higher for members of single gender organizations (like fraternities or sororities) regardless of gender.

RC: These statistics generally map onto lifetime prevalence data as well; national data indicate that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 6 men are likely to experience sexual assault throughout their lifetime. It’s really important to highlight that folks who have identities at the margins often experience much higher rates of sexual violence and often face significant barriers to reporting and accessing resources; for instance, 27.5% of Native American/Alaska Native women report experiencing sexual assault in their lifetime, compared to 20% of white women, and the Human Rights Campaign reports that “among people of color, American Indian (65%), multiracial (59%), Middle Eastern (58%), and Black (53%) respondents of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey were most likely to have been sexually assaulted in their lifetime.”

AG: Though of course, consideration and conversation about sexual violence ought to happen throughout the year, SAAM is an opportunity for us to come together in solidarity. We can use this month to think about ways to support people who have experienced or been impacted by sexual violence, to educate ourselves about the ways in which sexual violence shows up within our communities, and to hold ourselves accountable for change.

RC: The original SAAM awareness events began with Take Back the Night marches in the late 1970’s. These started in England and quickly spread.  In the 1980’s, while October was already recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, activists identified a week in April for sexual violence awareness-raising, which quickly turned into the Month. Since then, advocacy organizations, coalitions, and states have had varying levels of SAAM engagement. Notably, in 2001, the U.S. observed its first National SAAM. To learn more about the history of SAAM, please visit: https://www.nsvrc.org/saam/history.

AG: One piece of SAAM that we hope people begin to embrace is working to reframe our conversations about sexual violence. Historically, we have used rhetoric that dichotomizes victims and perpetrators. We find that it is more accessible to frame conversations about interpersonal harm in a way that is reflective of how harm can be complex and dynamic.  In service of that, we try to use language like: person who experienced harm, person who caused harm, etc.

RC: Ok, events!  To learn more about SAAM programs, please visit the OSAPR website.  For all undergraduates, there will be a weekly Yoga for Restoration class offered in the Dunster JCR on Wednesdays at 7.  Hear Me Now: A Take Back the Night event will be hosted in the Dudley Lounge on April 19th at 6pm. Our Voices, a student production, will be in the Leverett Library Theater on April 20th and 21st.  And, as always, Harvard Wears Denim will take over the Science Center Plaza from 12-2:30 on April 25th. We hope to see y’all there!