2019 Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM)
What this Month of Teal Ribbons is Really About
by Ethan Klee, Unspoken Voices Board Member/Digital Media Director
Those of us inside the advocacy world all gear up for months in preparation for the one advocacy month, week, or day, that garners a widening in the fabric of voices shouting to be heard; the one period of time when our message is most likely to gain traction. For us at Unspoken Voices, one of these times is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM).
Imagine a crowd, all wearing tie-dye, huddling together for one month to raise the teal part of their shirt. This is a small portion of their identity, the part of them that longs for what happened to them, or to someone they love, to be heard and understood, to be taken as a warning to others, and to spark a change to be taken seriously.
These tie-dye clad individuals were the start of the SAAM movement, as a 1970 protest where sexual assault survivors came together to speak out against their suffering. Between rallies and public speak-outs, this protest movement created a larger drive for ending sexual violence. This original organized protest called “Rape Awareness Week” in Washington State has now bloomed into a month long awareness month, covering issues from domestic violence, college sexual assault, and human trafficking, to training police officers to be culturally and ethically sensitive when faced with responding to a sexual assault case.
This year is the organization’s 18th anniversary, which reminds both participants and future participants of the whole point of the movement is ever-relevant. As an awareness campaign for the prevention of sexual assault, harassment, and abuse, it is ever important to realize—we cannot prevent an issue that people don’t know about. The goal stated for the early 2000s was awareness, to raise visibility (this being the origin of the teal ribbon, now symbolic of the movement). By the mid 2000s, the goal grew to focus more on prevention, particularly in communities, workplaces, and college campuses.
We propose that the goal starting now is education. The world has progressed to an era where everyone’s voice is a login and click away, and it is so precariously easy to get stuck in a vacuum of advocacy with other advocates, as well as misinformed to misinformed. Since the news and the internet do a great job of making survivors feel hopeless and those against them feel empowered, the challenge is to provide people with solid education and offer resources to bring awareness, help prevent future assaults, and teaching bystanders the true importance of standing up, stepping in, and speaking out becomes top priority. SAAM is noted as responsible for many non-profit organization’s involvement (including our own) by providing education, making people both aware of the problem, but also providing solutions.
So what can you do to help the movement? There are 3 steps.
STAND UP - Decide today you want to help make a change (Check out the Rosemary Pledge).
STEP IN - Become educated in active bystander intervention, and do it.
SPEAK OUT - Wear the teal, attend SAAM events, write a blog; just get involved.
And know that there are organizations here to help you as a survivor, an ally, a friend or family member of a survivor, in any capacity. We are here for you and we are here to stay.
Resources for Survivors and Supporters:
RAINN - Sexual Assault Hotline and online live chat Call 800.656.HOPE(4673)
You are not alone, and your voice has power.