April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

By Kaitlyn Eber
Rape Crisis Advocate, YWCA Aid to Victims of Violence

April is designated as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Sexual assault is a serious and widespread problem that can impact anyone regardless of their race, religion, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Nearly one in 5 women and one in 67 men have experienced rape or attempted rape in their life time. The purpose of designating a month to Sexual Assault prevention is to raise public awareness about sexual violence and educate communities about prevention strategies.

Prevention is everyone’s responsibility; we can all create and promote safe environments. When talking about prevention, we mean stopping sexual violence before it even has a chance to happen. This means changing the social norms that allow it to exist in the first place from individual attitudes, values and behaviors, to institutions, and widespread social norms. Throughout the next few weeks the YWCA Aid to Victims of Violence (AVV) program encourages you to participate in the following events:

Yards for Yeardley is an event created by the One Love Foundation. The One Love Foundation was created in honor of Yeardley Love, a student at the University of Virginia, who was beaten to death by her boyfriend 3 weeks before graduation. Yards for Yeardley has become a community awareness and educational event through which individuals across the country have come together to honor Yeardley and support One Love’s mission to end relationship abuse by educating young people about healthy and unhealthy relationships. This event will be taking place at SUNY Cortland on Sunday, April 7th from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. and at Tompkins Cortland Community College on Wednesday, April 10th from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Take Back the Night is an international event intended to be a protest against rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence. This march began as a way to protest the violence that women were experiencing while walking in public at night. The purpose of these marches is to speak out against this violence and raise community awareness as a preventive measure for future violence. Join AVV as they march in this annual event on Wednesday, April 17th at 8 p.m. at SUNY Cortland or on Wednesday, April 24th at 12 p.m. at Tompkins Cortland Community College.

On Wednesday, April 24th, join AVV in participating in Denim Day. Denim Day is an annual international sexual assault awareness campaign that works to start conversations about the destructive attitudes surrounding sexual assault. The Denim Day campaign was originally a response to 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 to 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. Since then, wearing jeans on Denim Day has become a symbol of protest against destructive attitudes about sexual assault. For this campaign we ask community members, elected officials, businesses and students to make a social statement with their fashion by wearing jeans on this day as a visible means of protest against the misconceptions that surround sexual assault. If you or your business are interested in participating, we have created stickers that we can provide for you.

YWCA’s AVV program provides free and confidential services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, rape, child abuse, and other crimes. The services AVV provides include accompaniment to the police station, hospital, Department of Social Services, courts, and other locations as necessary. They provide confidential advocacy to clients by providing non-judgmental, sensitive support and information. Their role is to assist the clients in feeling empowered to make their own decisions regarding their life, and ensuring that they fully understand their rights. AVV, also provides crisis intervention to victims, whether it is in person or over the phone. They operate a 24-hour confidential hotline where an advocate is available to offer support and provide intervention options. AVV also equips victims of domestic violence with emergency safe housing. At the Safe Dwelling, all basic needs are provided to the clients, in order to assist them in transitioning to a safer environment. The purpose of this program is to empower victims of abuse to live their own lives free of abuse and oppression, by helping them to explore positive opportunities and options.

Sexual Assault can happen regardless of your age, race, sexual orientation or gender identity. AVV provides essential services to our community regardless of sex or gender identity. If you or someone you know has experienced sexual abuse or assault, you can contact Aid to Victims of Violence through the 24 Hour Hotline: 607-756-6363. Please join us in support of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

This article was developed with funding provided by the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), Division of Family Health. Its contents are solely the responsibility of Aid to Victims of Violence and do not necessarily represent the official views of NYSDOH.