April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) – a time to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence.
Sexual violence affects people of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds. According to a recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one in five women and one in 71 men report experiencing rape at some time in their lives. Sexual violence is a significant public health concern. In addition to immediate physical and emotional effects, sexual violence can impact health in many ways, including long-term and chronic health problems.
Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2012
During April, raised awareness of the prevalence and impact of sexual violence is an opportunity to bolster prevention efforts. This year’s campaign, “It’s time … to talk about it,” focuses on healthy sexuality and encourages communities and individuals to join the conversation in order to prevent sexual violence.
The 2012 SAAM campaign provides tools and resources that focus on promoting positive expressions of sexuality and healthy behaviors. Promoting healthy behaviors encourages sexual interactions and relationships that are consensual, respectful and informed.
An ongoing dialogue about healthy sexuality can better equip individuals across the lifespan to make positive choices. Teaching healthy behaviors, such as skills to communicate and build positive relationships, is essential to preventing sexual violence.
5 Key characteristics of healthy sexuality
Healthy sexuality means having the knowledge and power to express sexuality in ways that enrich our lives. Healthy sexuality is free from violence and coercion.
The following characteristics demonstrate healthy sexuality (adapted from the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States):
- Relationships that are consensual, non-exploitative, honest, pleasurable, and safe.
- Skills to communicate with family, peers and romantic partners.
- Behaviors that respect the rights of others.
- Awareness of the impact of cultural, media, and societal messages on thoughts, feelings, values, and behaviors related to sexuality.
- Interactions that are appropriate and respect all.
Show your Support!
- Get informed: Explore SAAM campaign materials on healthy sexuality and learn more about how you can be involved in sexual violence prevention. Materials are available for free download from the SAAM website. For materials in Spanish, click here.
- Spread awareness: Participate in the “It’s time” campaign online by connecting with the National Sexual Violence Resource Center on Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube. Use your tweets, profiles pictures, status updates to spread the word about SAAM.
- Get Active for SAAM: Communities across the country plan events and activities during the month of April. Connect with the organizations in your state, community or campus to participate in events, volunteer or donate. Can’t find something in your region? Host your own SAAM event.
- Be an Advocate for Prevention: Share information about healthy sexuality, sexual violence prevention and the importance of SAAM with you community. Start the conversation about healthy sexuality and sexual violence prevention with your friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, classmates and others. By opening the lines of communication, we can raise awareness and help others learn about prevention.
For inspiration on how to start the conversation, check out the SAAM campaign video and see how we are talking about it.
What are you doing this month to spread awareness about sexual assault? Let us know on our Facebook page.
Laura Palumbo is the Prevention Campaign Specialist at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. Laura works collaboratively with NSVRC staff, national partners, and leaders in the anti-sexual violence movement in planning and implementing Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), an annual nationwide campaign to raise public awareness about sexual violence and educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence.