2020 Marks the Official 19th Anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness Month

But Did You Know We Can Trace Its History Even Longer?

Project HELP is Collier County’s Certified Rape Recovery and Victim Service Center providing free and confidential trauma services to victims of sexual assault, violence, crime and sudden loss of a loved one.

As we are approaching Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), we want to share the following: Even before its official declaration, SAAM was about both awareness and prevention of sexual assault, harassment, and abuse.

Looking at the history of the movement to end sexual violence, it’s clear why: It’s impossible to prevent an issue no one knows about, and it’s difficult to make people aware of a problem without providing a solution. The two work in tandem, and they always have.

From the civil rights movement to the founding of the first rape crisis centers to national legislation and beyond, the roots of SAAM run deep. As long as there have been people who care about making the world a better place, there have been individuals advocating for sexual assault prevention.

In the United States, movements for social change and equality began to gain traction in the 1940s and 1950s with the civil rights era. Although open discussion of the realities of sexual assault and domestic violence were limited at these times, activists for equal rights began to challenge the status quo.

Efforts during this time were championed by women of color. Advocates like Rosa Parks worked at the intersections of race-based and gender-based violence (a framework that years later in 1989, advocate and professor Kimberlé Crenshaw would call“intersectionality”).

Wide social activism around the issue of sexual assault continued into the 1970s, bringing with it support for survivors and heightened awareness.

The first rape crisis center was founded in San Francisco in 1971, the same city where the first U.S. Take Back the Night event was held seven years later.

The following decades mobilized survivors and advocates to call for legislation and funding that would support survivors, such as the Violence Against Women Act of 1993 (VAWA). Monumental changes like VAWA demonstrated that national efforts promoting sexual violence prevention were needed.

Even before SAAM was first nationally observed in 2001, advocates had been holding events, marches, and observances related to sexual violence during the month of April, sometimes during a week-long “Sexual Assault Awareness Week.”

Project HELP, Inc, Collier County’s Rape Recovery and Victim Service Center was established in 1986, and is committed to providing services to victims in Collier County. Statistics demonstrate that these healing services are crucial to the individuals whom we serve.

  • Every 73 seconds another American is sexually assaulted.
  • 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed, 2.8% attempted).
  • About 3% of American men—or 1 in 33—have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.
  • From 2009-2013, Child Protective Services agencies substantiated, or found strong evidence to indicate that, 63,000 children a year were victims of sexual abuse.
  • A majority of child victims are 12-17 years. Of victims under the age of 18: 34% of victims of sexual assault and rape are under age 12, and 66% of victims of sexual assault and rape are 12-17 years.

The history of SAAM has shown us that, no matter what, those who want to end sexual assault and abuse will always find ways to advocate for awareness and prevention. Looking forward, we can be sure that SAAM will continue to grow and adapt, reaching even more audiences with the message that a world free of sexual assault and abuse is possible.

Project HELP works with dignity and compassion to ease the pain of those who have been affected by rape, violence, crime or loss of a loved one. Contact the office line at 239-649-1404. The Project HELP CrisisHelpline is available 24/7 at 239-262-1404.

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