What is the history of Sexual Assault Awareness Month?
Even before its official declaration, Sexual Assault Awareness Month (“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.
Roots of the Movement
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 50s 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 Black women and 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.”
In an effort to further coordinate awareness and prevention efforts, in 2000, the newly launched National Sexual Violence Resource Center and the Resource Sharing Project polled sexual violence coalitions. They asked organizations about their preferred color, symbol, and month for sexual assault awareness activities. The results showed that those in the movement preferred a teal ribbon as a symbol for sexual assault awareness, and SAAM as we know it was born.
2020 Sexual Assault Awareness Event
History of Denim Day
Peace Over Violence has run its Denim Day campaign on a Wednesday in April in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The campaign began after a ruling by the Italian Supreme Court where a rape conviction was overturned because the justices felt that since the victim was wearing tight jeans she must have helped the person who raped her remove her jeans, thereby implying consent. The following day, the women in the Italian Parliament came to work wearing jeans in solidarity with the victim. Peace Over Violence developed the Denim Day campaign in response to this case and the activism surrounding it. Since then, wearing jeans on Denim Day has become a symbol of protest against erroneous and destructive attitudes about sexual harassment, abuse, assault, and rape. In this sexual violence prevention and education campaign, we ask community members, elected officials, businesses and students to make a social statement with their fashion statement by wearing jeans on this day as a visible means of protest against the misconceptions that surround sexual violence.
Join the YWCA to take a stand against sexual assault and violence during the 2020 Denim Day!
How to Join Us and Wear Denim for a Cause!
- On Denim Day (April 29th) wear your YWCA Denim Day shirt and/or your favorite denim and snap a photo. For the YWCA t-shirt, please note that you can wear any denim day shirt you have! Whether it’s last year’s design or this year’s! Don’t have a Denim Day shirt — that is OK! Just wear your favorite pair of jeans or denim jacket and pair it with a teal shirt, scarf, hat, or pin if you have one to take your photo!
- Send your photo to Ms. Lauren Alexander, Communications and Development Manager for YWCA of Central Virginia via email (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- We will post photos of members of the community taking a stand against sexual assault and violence by wearing their Denim Day shirt and/or jeans to our social media pages on April 29th!
Denim Day Shirts
Support SARP and show your Denim Day pride by purchasing a 2020 shirt to wear! This year we are going through bonfire.com so you may order your shirt and have it shipped directly to you. There are three adult shirts (premium, classic, and 3/4 sleeve) and this year there also is a youth shirt! Proceeds from the sale will go to support SARP and the YWCA (roughly about $1-3 per shirt).
Order here: https://www.bonfire.com/sarp-denim-day2020/
- *NOTE*: All shirts are printed and shipped directly from Bonfire. Due to this, any shirt ordered after April 5, 2020 will not arrive by April 29th to be worn on Denim Day. However, don’t let that stop you! These shirts can be worn all year long to show the community that you are working alongside your YWCA to end sexual assault and violence!