April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), an annual event that was kicked off this year by a number of activities, including the lighting of Niagara falls in teal lights on the first day of the month. This month dedicated to the awareness of sexual violence has a long history that spans the globe. While events are held in order to promote this awareness, looking back at the past can show just how far this month of education has truly come.
SAAM has a history dating back to the 1970’s, when women in England chose to hold protests regarding the night time violence they experienced when walking the streets for any reason. The protests were called Take Back the Night. Word of these protests spread across the globe as the events got bigger. The first Take Back the Nights events held in the United States, took place in 1978 in both New York City and San Francisco. As the event has grown, the issues have expanded to include sexual assault on men, and how men can take an active role in ending the violence.
In the early 1980’s, the month of October was used to raise awareness about violence directed towards women. Activists decided that they wanted to find a separate time to raise awareness regarding sexual assaults, rather than domestic violence, which is discussed in October. By the late 1980’s, an entire week had been chosen to address the issues and a poll chose April to be the designated month. In the 1990’s, events were being held throughout the month to address the issues of sexual violence. Activists made the call to request that the entire month of April be dedicated to sexual assault awareness.
From 2000 to 2001, polling was done to determine not only which month they preferred to cover educational activities but also what color would represent the awareness ribbon. The first annual SAAM was held in the U.S. in April of 2001. In 2002, a five year plan was developed in order to bring awareness to the issues, and to increase the presence of education in the nation. This plan was put into action by promoting the month that events would take place, the color that was chosen to represent the awareness movement (teal) and the symbol. A slogan campaign was initiated to find something to accurately represent the movement.
In 2003, the winner of the slogan contest was announced and implemented, and campaign materials were made with the words Decide to End Sexual Violence on them. By 2005, tools were being given to help end the violence. In 2008 the campaign extended to promote stopping sexual violence in the workplace. Every year, the campaign has grown and spread to include different aspects and areas that need to be promoted, to end sexual assault.
April is truly a month of awareness, as individuals take part in educating people on the benefits of libraries, the importance of learning about autism and the people who live with it, and the necessity of fighting against sexual assault. This is a month that truly is devoted to educating people and spreading the word about some critical issues in the world. As events take over the month to promote awareness across a number of different platforms, women can join in to raise awareness by wearing red lipstick, and joining the #RedMyLips campaign, to support women who have been victims.
By Kimberley Spinney
Photo by Steve Rhodes – Flickr License