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Sexual Assault Awareness Month


Written by Caitlin Wheeler

*CONTENT WARNING: SEXUAL ASSAULT, SUICIDAL THOUGHTS*

What is Sexual Assault Awareness Month?

Sexual Assault Awareness Month takes place during the month of April to raise awareness about sexual assault. This time can be used to bring attention to the very real issue of sexual assault and to educate people about the facts and how they can help others. Sexual Assault Awareness Month became official in 2001.


What is Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault can be uncomfortable to talk about but ignoring it just furthers stigma and ignorance. RAINN defines sexual assault as “sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim.” It lists some examples of this:

  • Attempted rape

  • Fondling or unwanted sexual touching

  • Forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, such as oral sex or penetrating the perpetrator’s body

  • Penetration of the victim’s body, also known as rape

Sometimes people are unsure of the difference between rape and sexual assault. RAINN tries to explain it simply: “Rape is a form of sexual assault, but not all sexual assault is rape. The term rape is often used as a legal definition to specifically include sexual penetration without consent.” States define rape differently sometimes. Below will be a resource to find the laws for your state. And force does not have to be someone pinning you down or being physically stronger than you. RAINN says, “Perpetrators may use emotional coercion, psychological force, or manipulation to coerce a victim into non-consensual sex.” Perpetrators might also threaten a victim or intimidate them. Most sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows. About a third are committed by family members. Few sexual assaults are committed by strangers, but they do still happen and those experiences are still valid sexual assaults.


How Can I Observe Sexual Assault Awareness Month?

Get your information from reliable sources (such as those listed below). Spread awareness. Support those around you. If you see something that doesn’t look right, step in and help. These can be done year-round, not just during Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Be informed, raise awareness, help others, and be an advocate for what you know is right.


The Author’s Perspective

I have trauma from sexual assault. I know it can be really really hard to tell someone. You might feel like it’s your fault. I know I did. I felt like it was all my fault and that I had to keep it a secret from everyone. I felt so disgusting, ashamed, guilty. I had flashbacks a lot. It was all I could think about. I felt like my autonomy had been taken away forever. I didn’t feel like myself anymore. I felt like it was a secret I had to take to my grave. I couldn’t stand to be around myself anymore. I wanted to commit suicide. I was so desperate to relieve the pain I felt from what that person did to me. When I finally told my friend what had happened, they helped me deal with it. Simply telling someone and getting the secret out of my system helped me cope. They supported me and I gained the courage to report what had happened to my school. It was very hard but I’m glad I did. I felt like I was no longer being held captive by the person who assaulted me. I felt like maybe I could finally move on. It took a long time and it was very hard. But it was worth it. To anyone out there who has experienced sexual assault: I know it can feel absolutely impossible to ever continue living and to deal with what happened. But you can do it. You can be okay again. Maybe a different kind of okay, but you can get there. And no matter what, IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. Don’t blame yourself. Please. Sexual assault is not your fault. Even if you didn’t outright say “no” or try to shove the person away, you shouldn’t blame yourself. If you feel comfortable, tell someone you trust. It feels great to get the weight off your chest. If you’re feeling suicidal, please get help. Don’t keep this to yourself. If you need to talk to someone, there are multiple hotlines and resources listed below. You can do this. You can move past this. YOU ARE MORE THAN YOUR SEXUAL ASSAULT.


What Resources are There for People Who Have Experienced Sexual Assault and Their Loved Ones?

After you or someone you care about has experienced a sexual assault, it can be really difficult to figure out what to do next. You might be feeling a lot of different emotions – anger, sadness, shame, guilt, fear, anxiety, loneliness, disgust. These are all normal. You might be struggling to decide what to do. Should you keep it to yourself? Report it to your school or local police? Fortunately, there are many resources available for those who have experienced sexual assault or those who have a loved one with that experience:


Emergency Resources (bold resources are available 24/7)

Long-Term/Non-Emergency Resources

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