Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) occurs annually in the month of April; SAAM was established to raise awareness about sexual assault, and to educate and support communities on how they are able to effect change, and so contribute to the prevention of sexual assault in their community. The initiative began in the late 1980s in the U.S. by the National Sexual Violence Resource Centre (NSVRC), and in 2001 was recognised nationally. Now, GCASA will take this initiative further globally through promoting SAAM within our own community.
At Gippsland CASA (GCASA), sexual assault is defined as any sexual behaviour that occurs that is unwanted, is without a person’s consent, and makes a person feel uncomfortable, threatened, distressed or afraid. This definition can range from sexist attitudes and actions through to rape and murder.
Sexual assault is a serious and widespread issue within our community. In Australia, 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys will experience some form of sexual assault by the age of 18. Australia is also ranked as the third highest country in the world for the most reported number of rapes per 100,000, behind Congo and South Africa. These facts establish why prevention is so vital. Sexual assault is a public social health issue that affects all members of our community.
People who have been harmed sexually will often, as a result, experience feelings of shock and fear, as well as guilt, shame and isolation. Community attitudes in regards to sexual assault can contribute to these feelings.
However, prevention of sexual assault is possible, and it is already happening. We as a community can work together to promote safe behaviours, gender equitable polices within our workplaces and community clubs, as well as healthy and respectful relationship’s education for all. Through these actions, the collective ‘we’ can work towards a safe and just community where all of our members are treated with dignity and respect.
This year’s theme for SAAM is ‘Engaging new voices’, so, throughout the month of April, GCASA will call on you for action to assist us in raising community awareness, and for support in shifting community attitudes that perpetuate and condone violence. Sexual assault prevention requires many voices, GCASA will support and provide information and education on how we, again the ‘collective’, can all make a difference. The entire community shares the responsibility to promote and establish a community free of sexual violence, of all violence. Your community needs your voice.