Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2008

April is national Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). Didn’t know we had one?teal-ribbon.jpg

Here’s a little history…

SAAM sprung from the 70’s “Take Back the Night” rallies, which have a somewhat equivocal origin. Certain sources claim the first U.S. rally, kicked-off by controversial and self described “militant” feminist Andrea Dworkin, took place in 1978 when 3,000 women took to the streets of San Francisco’s red light district to protest violence in pornography. Yet, further research shows that the National Organization for Women first called women to “Take Back the Night” against violence as early as 1975.

In any event, these ideas likely fomented in co-existing pockets of feminist activity throughout the 70’s. By the 1980’s the movement – almost exclusively targeted against all forms of gender-based violence – was roaring with annual marches and by 1990, through coordination efforts led by the National Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NCASA), Sexual Assault Awareness Week came into being. Finally, in 2001 the movement had grown to encompass the entire month of April and SAAM was born.

According to the NCASA:

April brings an annual opportunity to focus awareness on sexual violence and its prevention. It is also an opportunity to highlight the efforts of individuals and agencies that provide rape crisis intervention and prevention services while offering support to sexual assault survivors, victims and their families.


The National Resource Center for Youth Violence Prevention gives the following statistics.

Sexual assault involves sexual acts that are forced upon individuals against their will. These acts can be physical (such as rape or unwanted sexual touching), verbal (such as sexually abusive or threatening speech), or psychological (such as voyeurism or exhibitionism). Anyone can be a victim of sexual assault. However, women and girls are more likely than males to experience violence of this type. Sexual assault is most often committed by someone known to the victim such as a spouse, family member, co-worker, friend or acquaintance, although it can also be committed by a stranger.

  • According to the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), a national survey of high school students, approximately 9% of students reported having been forced to have sexual intercourse against their will in their lifetime. Female students (11.9%) were more likely than male students (6.1%) to report having been sexually assaulted.
  • Sexual violence can start very early in life. More than half of all rapes (54%) of women occur before age 18; 22% of these rapes occur before age 12.
  • The National College Women Sexual Victimization Study estimated that between 1 in 4 and 1 in 5 college women experienced completed or attempted rape during their college years. [Em. mine]

The Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN) gives these well-documented stats:

  • 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.
  • College-aged women are 4 times more likely to be a victim of sexual assault.
  • Every 2 minutes someone in the United States is sexually assaulted.
  • 60% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police.
  • Only 6% of rapists will ever spend a day in jail.

Get Involved!

Although the “Day of Action” is slated for the 3rd, events are going on all month long. Most of the events are local, so check out the organizations in your area. Here are a few that are particularly active this year:

The DC Rape Crisis Center has a host of activities. Their rally is April 8th, but they have events throughout the month such as poetry slams, informational seminars, healing workshops, self-defense classes, and – my favorite – the “Dragging Out Sexual Violence Benefit Drag Show.” If you’re near the capital, don’t miss it.

As part of SAAM the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault holds SAY SO (Sexual Assault Yearly Speak Out). Described as “part vigil part performance art” it takes place in early May. Plenty of time to sign up!

RAINN has various activities. It also sponsors, along with Peace Over Violence, annual Denim Day in LA, which this year is April 23rd. Other cities and campuses across the country also have Denim Days in April.

The RAINN website explains:

In 1998, an Italian Supreme Court decision overturned a rape conviction because the victim wore jeans [rationalizing that “jeans cannot be removed easily and certainly it is impossible to pull them off if the victim is fighting against her attacker with all her force.”]. People all over the world were outraged. Wearing jeans became an international symbol of protest against erroneous and destructive attitudes about sexual assault. Last year, on Denim Day an unprecedented 300,000 people signed up to wear jeans in support of raising awareness about the need to end sexual violence. This year we aim to at least double that amount.

This day in the schools, offices and streets of Los Angeles County we unite against rape of girls, women, boys and men. We stand in support of survivors. We break the silence to end sexual violence.

On Denim Day in LA wear your jeans as a visible sign of protest against the myths that still surround sexual assault!

More information on the case via Denim Day’s site:

An 18-year old girl is picked up by her married 45-year old driving instructor for her very first lesson. He takes her to an isolated road, pulls her out of the car, wrestles her out of one leg of her jeans and forcefully rapes her. Threatened with death if she tells anyone, he makes her drive the car home. Later that night she tells her parents, and they help and support her to press charges. The perpetrator gets arrested and is prosecuted. He is convicted of rape and sentenced to jail.

He appeals the sentence. The case makes it all the way to the Italian Supreme Court. Within a matter of days the case against the driving instructor is overturned, dismissed, and the perpetrator released. In a statement by the Chief Judge, he argued, “because the victim wore very, very tight jeans, she had to help him remove them, and by removing the jeans it was no longer rape but consensual sex.”

Judge Aldo Rizzo defends the ruling in the NY Times by saying

“It should be noted that it is instinctive, especially for a young woman, to oppose with all her strength the person who wants to rape her. And it is illogical to say that a young woman would passively submit to a rape, which is a grave violence, for fear of undergoing other hypothetical and no more serious offenses to her physical safety.”

I can think of nothing to add to that comment. Can anyone really question why more awareness is needed?


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3 Responses to “Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2008”

  1. Listen up and take action…April is SAAM « Ifelicious Thoughts Says:

    […] (excerpt from blog “Blackbird Whistling… […]

  2. Listen up and take action…April is SAAM | Ifelicious Thoughts Says:

    […] (excerpt from blog “Blackbird Whistling… […]

  3. Listen up and take action...April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month | Ifelicious Thoughts Says:

    […] (excerpt from blog “Blackbird Whistling“) […]

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