Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) is observed every April to increase public awareness about sexual violence and engage communities in prevention efforts. The goal of SAAM is to help individuals and communities understand that sexual assault is a serious problem with a lasting impact on survivors, families, and society.
The exact number of people who are sexually assaulted in the United States each year is difficult to determine because it is often underreported. However, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men experienced some form of sexual violence in their lifetime. Additionally, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) reports that on average, there are 433,648 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year in the U.S. However, it is important to note that these statistics represent known reported cases, and, as mentioned before, it is likely that the actual number of sexual assaults is higher due to underreporting.
The origin of SAAM dates back to the 1970s when activists started organizing rallies and events to raise awareness about sexual violence and advocate for survivors. It was officially launched as a national awareness campaign in the United States in 2001, and since then, it has been observed annually in many countries around the world.
SAAM aims to educate people on how to prevent sexual violence, promote healthy relationships, and support survivors. It provides an opportunity for individuals and organizations to come together and take action to end sexual violence. By raising awareness about sexual assault and promoting prevention efforts, we can create a safer and more equitable world for all.
Here are some points that people should keep in mind this month during SAAM, and beyond:
- Sexual assault is a serious crime with severe physical, emotional, and mental consequences for the survivor.
- Consent is key. Sexual activity without active, affirmative, and ongoing consent is sexual assault.
- Sexual assault can happen to anyone regardless of their gender, age, race, or sexual orientation.
- Supporting survivors and offering them safe spaces and resources is crucial to their healing.
- We can all play a role in preventing sexual violence by challenging harmful attitudes and behaviors, educating ourselves and our communities, and promoting healthy and respectful relationships.
- There are a variety of support resources available for survivors, such as hotlines and counseling services.
- It is important to believe survivors and hold perpetrators accountable for their actions.
By spreading awareness about sexual assault and taking action to prevent it, we can create a safer and more supportive world for all. Some who have been victimized, have found ways of dealing with the aftermath and healing from it. Hagit Vardi was one such person.
Healing takes a lot of work and a lot of time, perhaps an entire lifetime, but when Hagit began recovering, she discovered poetry helped her to deal with those complex and sometimes conflicting feelings.
And She Wasn’t Damaged: Poems for Speaker and Chorus is a collection of poems that gives us a glimpse into the emotional and physical world of those who survive abuse–the self doubt, anger, shame, and despair that arise from the struggle between the need to know and the fear of knowing. While these poems serve as a voice for survivors, they also enlighten us about the intense and lasting effects of abuse.
Here is one of her poems from And She Wasn’t Damaged:
It May Well Be
It may well be
I have to take myself apart
Then put myself together anew
It may well be
Now the time is right
Although it was a long time due
If asked before the blast
I wouldn’t have been motivated
But then – I didn’t know
I wasn’t liberated
About Hagit Vardi: Hagit Vardi trained as a flutist and later in different modalities of healing arts. For the past twenty years, Hagit has been helping people as a Feldenkrais practitioner (including at the University of Wisconsin Integrative Health program) and has been teaching Feldenkrais for Musicians courses and workshops with her husband, Uri Vardi. In her sixties, Vardi started writing poetry as part of her healing process. She has published five books of poetry in Hebrew with Pardes Publishing. Her poems were published in newspapers, literary magazines and on the radio, and attract attention among mental health professionals and the centers of assistance for victims of sexual abuse.