Me Too: Sexual Assault Awareness Month

By AMARA MOORE

April is recognized as Sexual Assualt Awareness Month (SAAM) an important month to acknowledge victims who’ve had the unpleasantry to experience such a trauma.

Since the beginning of time, sexual assault has been a thing, whether you choose to acknowledge it or not. It’s very important to be aware that not everyone has reported or come out about it due to fear of slander and ridicule. 63% of completed rapes and 65% of attempted rapes have NOT been reported. Only an average of 34.8% of rapes/sexual assaults have been reported with only about 6% of those assailants being charged and getting jail time. For centuries, the world has been run by men, leaving women to fend for and fight for themselves. With men running the world, they have put in place ideologies that benefit them and put women at odds. Women only got voting rights in 1919, and that was just the white ones. Black and colored women didn’t even get that right til 1965. Women weren’t allowed to work for the government until 1923, weren’t allowed to own property until 1848 (again, just the white ones), and couldn’t join the army til 1948. So for as long as we can remember, we’ve been pushed aside and withheld from our rights to just about anything.

SAAM was observed nationally in 2001. Movements for social change became dominant and noticed in the 1940s and 50s. This movement mostly consisted of black and colored women, which included Rosa Parks, advocating for gender violence, which advocate and professor Kimberle Crenshaw, would later call “intersectionality”. This brought about more survivors speaking up and heightened awareness. The following years and decades mobilized survivors and advocates to call for legislation and funding that would support the survivors. An example of this would be the Violence Against Women Act of 1993, which provided $1.6 billion towards the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women. Even before SAAM, advocates had been holding marches and protests related to sexual violence during the month of April, sometimes being a week-long “Sexual Assualt Awareness Week”.

In 2000, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and the Sharing Project had polled sexual violence coalitions. Both asked organizations what their preferred color, symbol, and month for sexual assualt awareness activities and events. They came to the conclusion and agreement of a teal ribbon to be the symbol. In 2009, President Obama was the first president to recognize April as Sexual Assualt Awareness Month.

Many survivors have suffered due to being ridiculed by people accusing them of lying when they speak up about what happened to them. The fact of the matter is that only 2.5% of people falsely accuse other people of sexually assaulting them. About 81% of women and 43% of men have experienced sexual harassment or assault. Women make up an estimate of 91% of survivors are women. 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men are victims of this heinous crime.

In 2006, Tarana Burke, a New York City women’s rights advocate, began to use the phrase “Me Too” to raise awareness for women survivors. Eleven years later, in 2017, a famous actress, Alyssa Milano, tweeted about her assailant Harvey Weinstein, which grew the “Me Too” movement to a global level. Since then, survivors have adopted this phrase and used it for awareness, hashtags, and protests, and have done so much more.

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