In addition to April Fools Day and Easter celebrations, April has the more serious honor of being Sexual Assault Awareness Month [SAAM]. SAAM is an annual campaign to raise public awareness about sexual assault and educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence.
While we may read incessant articles about “rape culture” in far-away countries like India and be shocked by the numbers, the statistics surrounding sexual assault right here in America are beyond startling. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network [RAINN] an American is sexually assaulted every 107 seconds and almost half of those victims (44 percent) are under the age of 18. Sixty-eight percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the police and a staggering 98 percent of rapists will never spend a day in prison.
Celebrities who’ve bravely used their public profile to speak on their traumatic sexual assault experiences include Gabrielle Union, Ashley Judd, Madonna and Oprah Winfrey.
Oprah once explained to David Letterman too many people still don’t understand sexual assault isn’t just about the act of abuse, but the misuse of trust and shame that follows. Reflecting on her success with The Oprah Winfrey Show she remarked, “The one thing I most regret is I wasn’t able to move the needle far enough on abuse in this country.”
According to the Department of Justice, sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.
Sexual Assault Awareness month was first observed nationally in 2001 but it wasn’t until 2009 when President Obama was the first United States president to proclaim April as the month to officially recognize the crime. In September last year the President launched “It’s On Us,” a campaign to help put an end to sexual assault on college campuses. "An estimated one in five women has been sexually assaulted during her college years —one in five," the President noted. "Of those assaults, only 12 percent are reported, and of those reported assaults, only a fraction of the offenders are punished.”
To show your support for the month, you can wear a teal-colored ribbon. If you are a victim or survivor, or helping someone in that situation, you can call the numbers below to get the resources and information you need.
National Sexual Assault Hotline:
National Sexual Violence Resource Center: