Sexual assault awareness month

Prepared by: Pulkit Mahajan, Beat Sexism India

What is sexual assault awareness month?

Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) is an annual campaign to raise public awareness about sexual assault and educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence. It is observed in April.

Why do we need to be aware?

Perhaps the most important part of any awareness campaign is making people aware of the cause. When people discover how prevalent and underreported sexual assault is, they are often shocked. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center:

One in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives.

One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old.

One in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college, and 90 percent of assault victims don’t report the assault.

Rape is the most underreported crime with 63 percent of cases never reported to the police.

Language of consent

Another way educators can make a difference is by helping students learn the language of consent. Even very young children can understand that individuals have the right to exercise control over their own bodies and that everyone needs to ask before touching another person or crossing their physical boundaries.

Important guidelines

  1. Sexual assault is never the survivor’s fault. Never criticize or question a sexual assault survivor about their behavior leading up to or following the assault.
  2. Be respectful, direct, and honest when intervening in an institution where you suspect a peer is in danger. Do not act alone. Contact the police if you do not feel safe.
  3. Teachers and school personnel are mandatory reporters. If a student contacts a teacher, counselor, dean, or anyone else employed by the school, the adult has to report the incident to the authorities.
  4. Sexual assault against members of the LGBTQ+ community is severely under-acknowledged. Students need to understand that this is a problem that affects everyone and be prepared to respond appropriately.

Talking with survivors

During any awareness campaign, it is likely that some survivors will feel empowered to come forward. If you are not qualified to talk with survivors of sexual assault, have someone on hand who is, like a counselor or social worker. It is possible for victims to remain silent for many years after the initial trauma, and they might feel encouraged to come out and report the crime, especially during this month. Treat any survivors gently and respectfully, and get them the help they need, whether by referring them to a counselor or calling the hotline number with them. Be especially careful to reassure them that their experience was not their fault.

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