National Sexual Assault Awareness Month promotes advocacy

Each April, sexual assault awareness month (SAAM) is observed nationally. The month is meant to increase awareness about the causes and risk factors related to sexual assault and to encourage people to take steps towards sexual assault prevention in their communities.

Beckley, W. Va., news station — 59News — shared in West Virginia alone, nearly one in six women and nearly one in 21 men will be victims of an attempted or completed sexual assault in their lifetime.

AWAY West Virginia is a private non-profit agency that provides temporary emergency shelters, counseling, crisis intervention, advocacy and other supportive services to victims, survivors and witnesses of domestic and sexual violence. In the same 59News article, Assistant Executive Director for AWAY, Eric Stone, was quoted saying SAAM is “crucial in the state with West Virginia having one of the highest rates of sexual assault crime in the country,” adding “it’s important to recognize assault can impact everyone, not just women.”

According to National Today, the month is important as the month sheds light on the very serious issue of sexual assault. SAAM gives advocates the opportunity to educate people in various communities about sexual assault prevention. Additionally, the annual awareness provides a chance for national and local campaigns to raise money to help decrease sexual assault, support survivors and advocate for legislation and support systems. Lastly, the month gives survivors a chance to have open conversations about situations they have been in, discuss issues with sexual violence, reduce the stigma surrounded by sexual assault and encourage those who have been assaulted (past or in the future) to reach out to the community implemented resources for support.

SAAM traces back to the early 1970s, when activists began to organize on a national scale to help educate and reduce the number of sexual assaults and violence happening. “Advocates fought tirelessly to bring a topic once taboo for public discussion out of the shadows and shed light on the widespread problem of sexual assault,” according to National Today. By 2001, the first official SAAM was recognized nationally, and more organizations were able to get resources to teach individuals in their communities about sexual assault awareness and prevention.

If you or someone you know is struggling from an attempted or completed sexual assault, please reach out to someone you trust for support.

At West Liberty University, Kate Billings is the Title IX coordinator and the person to whom all forms of abuse (physical, verbal and sexual) should be reported to. To reach Billings, email her at [email protected] or call her office 304.336.8580.

Any questions relating to the contents of this article, please reach out to Annalise Murphy at [email protected].