April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Support Victims & Survivors
NSVRC (National Sexual Violence Resource Center) and the committee of SAAM (Sexual Assault Awareness Month) offered the following list of event suggestions to help you plan an april event. We encourage you to adapt events and activities to your community’s needs. When you schedule your SAAM event(s), be sure to add them to the comments on this action page so that other organizations can attend local events and also generate ideas.
Set up a table in a busy central location in your community. Hang teal decorations on the table and distribute SAAM products and information on sexual assault. Be sure to distribute tip sheets on how individuals can prevent sexual violence. Hand out candy or other giveaways to attract visitors to your table. Be sure to obtain approval from your city or college to set up and staff the display.
This type of event creates a safe space for survivors of all forms of sexual violence to “speak out” about their experience, recovery, and healing. Choose a fairly quiet location for your event and ensure that local rape crisis center professionals are on hand to provide assistance to speakers and/or audience members in need. One option is to have two podiums and microphones set up, one for survivors that are willing to have their stories recorded by local or campus media, and one for speakers who do not want press coverage.
Some organizations can take part in political advocacy during SAAM by writing letters to local, state, territory, tribal, or other government officials about policies related to sexual violence that affect your community.
Many social and health causes have started annual walk or run events to raise money and awareness about their issue. If your organization has the resources to plan and hold a walk for sexual violence awareness and prevention, this is a great option. If you have limited time and resources, consider reaching out to other organizations in your area that are holding walks and runs during April and form a team to represent the anti-sexual violence movement. Have matching teal t-shirts made and make sure to bring materials on sexual violence to distribute to other participants.
V-Day is a global movement to stop violence against women and girls. V-Day promotes creative events to increase awareness, raise money, and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations. V-Day generates broader attention for the fight to stop violence against women and girls, including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation (FGM), and sexual slavery. Through V-Day campaigns, local volunteers and college students produce annual benefit performances of “The Vagina Monologues” to raise awareness and funds for anti-violence groups within their own communities. The V-Day website (www.vday.org) provides information on holding a Vagina Monologues event in your community or at your college or university. V-Day events often occur during the month of April, but also take place throughout the calendar year.
“Breakfast With” Event
Invite local legislators who have sponsored legislation that addresses sexual violence to talk about contemporary trends in anti-sexual violence law. You can also invite local business leaders, law enforcement agents, attorneys, and other groups that would be impacted by pending or recently passed legislation. Make sure that your organization’s services are highlighted during the presentation. If possible, have speakers and presenters wear stickers, pins, or t-shirts advertising your organization.
Bookstore and Library Displays & Readings
Approach local bookstores and libraries about setting up displays of books related to sexual assault with a SAAM flyer and your program’s information. Organize a book or poetry reading about sexual assault and healing.
The Clothesline Project began as a vehicle for women affected by violence to express their emotions by decorating a shirt. They then hang the shirt on a clothesline to be viewed by others as testimony to the problem of violence against women. Today, Clothesline Projects provide awareness about sexual and domestic violence, hate crimes, and child abuse. Many communities have developed culturally-specific Clothesline Projects (e.g. Asian Clothesline Project in MA). Most events include a shirt-making session, held in conjunction with a display of recently or previously created shirts. Alternatively, you might arrange simply to display previously created T-shirts only. The shirts may be color-coded to show the form of abuse and whether the victim survived the abuse they experienced.
Cup of Prevention
Ask local coffee shops, book stores, and other small restaurants to donate a percentage of their coffee and tea sales to the local rape crisis center during the month of April.
Denim Day is an international protest in response to the Italian Supreme Court's overruling of a rape conviction in 1999. An Italian woman was raped, and when the case went to trial, the jury found her assailant guilty. The Supreme Court then overturned the ruling, saying that jeans are so difficult to remove, the assailant could not have done so without the victim’s help.
To honor Denim Day, people are encouraged to wear jeans to work or school in order to promote awareness. Your organization can also print stickers or buttons with Denim Day slogans on them, to encourage people to ask, “What is Denim Day?” To make this event successful, effective promotion is the key. Your organization should publicize this event to as many businesses and schools as possible. Information about sexual assault should be sent out with the information about Denim Day. Peace Over Violence (formerly Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women), sponsors a Denim Day in LA campaign with various related resources. Visit http://www.denimdayinla.org/ for more information.
Faith-Based Community Challenge
Challenge area faith communities to address sexual violence during April through services, prayer sessions, articles in newsletters, and donations to local rape crisis centers. Remember to ask permission to have sexual assault information on display throughout April.
Get a large length of teal fabric and arrange it as an awareness ribbon around a person standing so that the ends of the ribbon flow out on the ground. The person with the ribbon around them would not speak to others, but an advocate would accompany that person to engage others who come to look at the “human ribbon.” Local dignitaries could be recruited to be the “human ribbon.” Have educational information available to distribute to observers.
Mock Sexual Assault Trials are used across the country to educate communities about the legal process and address myths and facts about sexual assault. Mock Trials are condensed recreations of actual or imaginary trials. This dramatic style of presentation enables an organization to pull in judicial representatives, theater groups, students, and a wide variety of community members. Mock trials have been used to train first responders about their role in the criminal justice process and inform survivors of what might be involved in pursuing criminal charges. Some communities have adapted the mock trial to explore the campus judicial hearing process.
Developing a mock trial takes time; allow at least three months for planning. Mock trials rely on a script, actors/community members, and good marketing. Local service providers such as police, judges, attorneys and forensic examiners make for great actors. You may be able to hold the mock trial in your area courthouse, town hall or educational institution. Mock juries often struggle with the same issues as actual jury members. Some organizations have included a video, script or scene to depict the events leading up the sexual assault as a way to close to presentation no matter what decision the jury reaches.
Several films and movies (documentaries and feature films alike) could be used in the SAAM campaign. Use discussion guides to get the audience thinking and talking about the sexual violence issues addressed in the video. Inquire at local theatres about having specific movies shown during April with a portion of proceeds donated to local sexual violence centers as another way of raising awareness.
Having an open house reception can be a simple but very effective way to raise awareness of sexual assault and of your agency/program’s role in the community. An open house provides an opportunity for you to raise your profile in the community and to provide valuable information. You can place brochures, signs and educational information on a table as well as provide information about volunteer opportunities.
The open house can be as simple or elaborate as you wish. Your staff may decide to provide snacks and refreshments. Or if your budget permits, you may choose to have a catered reception. Invite your board members and local public officials. Publicize the open house in your local newspaper or radio station. You many also want to invite school administrators, and guidance counselors, as well as local businesses and the chamber of commerce.
Operation Law Enforcement
Request permission to tie teal ribbons to the antennae of police cars in your county. This is an opportunity to get to know your law enforcement officers and for them to become more involved with your agency. This could also be a great photo opportunity for the local media.
Partner with a Local Restaurant
There is a range of ways you can incorporate a local restaurant into your SAAM activities. Find a local restaurant that will provide an organizational discount and then host a corporate/legislative breakfast to (re)introduce your agency and board to the community. Another possibility is to ask for a small percent of the profits on “SAAM Day of Action” as a charitable donation. Or, ask if you may put brochures or teal awareness ribbon pins near the cash register. Consider asking restaurants to use the SAAM napkins, available through the NSVRC SAAM store, during the month or on “SAAM Day of Action.” Finally, it is always good to ask if you may hang awareness posters in a public area of the restaurant.
Poetry Slams have become increasingly popular since they began in the 1980s. Poetry Slams are events where poets perform their work and are judged on their writing and performance, encouraging poets to focus on what they're saying and how they're saying it. SAAM Poetry Slams are open to anyone who is willing to participate, but registration with a local program is required. These events can be large or small; however, we recommend that you begin planning this event four to five months prior to the event date. You may partner with campus organizations and local colleges to locate a venue for the event. University English and Performing Arts Departments may be interested in co-sponsoring the event. Ask local businesses to sponsor your event. Additionally, invite your local media to advertise and cover the event. Finally, you may wish to partner with your local radio stations for DJs, judges, and hosts.
Presentations at Salons
A unique place to hold presentations about sexual violence is at local beauty salons. You can hang a poster with sexual assault information and your organization’s services or provide stickers with your organization’s contact information to be affixed to the back of stylists’ business cards, among other things.
Restrooms are everywhere! Put flyers up on the back of stall doors in the restrooms of college campuses, bars, businesses, state agencies (welfare, unemployment, etc.), and anywhere there is a bathroom. Remember to ask permission before posting flyers.
Shine the Light on Sexual Violence
The concept of Shine the Light on Sexual Violence was originally developed by the YWCA of Greater Los Angeles Sexual Assault Crisis Program. Shine the Light can be as simple as encouraging the community to use car headlights, candles, lamps, or flashlights to develop awareness about sexual violence. You may also choose to coordinate a community event such as a candlelight vigil at dusk, for which you designate a time and place for the community to gather. Remember to disseminate flyers with the event information, including location and time, before the date in order to increase community participation.
Shop to End Sexual Violence
This event can be integrated into any community, small or large, with strategic marketing and community relations. Advocates can get started with a template letter and flyer found here (this was the 2008 Featured Event).
Take Back the Night
Take Back the Night (TBTN) is an international phenomenon that began in the early 1970’s in Germany in response to a series of sexual assaults and murders. TBTN rallies and marches have been held throughout the United States since the late 1970’s. Local communities in the United States, Canada, Latin America, India, and Europe have been organizing TBTN marches and rallies to unify individuals to stand against violence in their communities.
TBTN can include a candlelight vigil, a rally, a survivor speak out, and a large-scale public march. Many organizations have incorporated the arts into their event with banner- making contests, musical performances, poetry, and exhibits. Be sure to check with your local law enforcement official regarding legal status of your event and safety issues.
Teal ribbon campaign
Tie a teal ribbon to your car, your head, your clothing, etc. Set up baskets with teal ribbons on pin cards at hair salons, libraries, banks, and doctors’ offices. Wrap big teal ribbons around trees or tie teal ribbons to your county’s public safety vehicles. Ask your local craft store to donate teal ribbons to your agency or provide you with a nonprofit discount. Wherever you place the ribbons, be sure to have information on the significance of the ribbon as part of sexual assault awareness and prevention efforts.
Have survivors do art projects as a part of a support or therapy group to express their healing. Some centers have produced shadow boxes, quilts, handmade dresses, collages, and jewelry. Display the art at a public space and have local musicians and other artists perform.
Tree and Flower Planting
Tree and flower planting ceremonies during Sexual Assault Awareness Month serve a dual purpose. They give recognition to those who have been sexually assaulted in our communities and counteract pollution in the environment. These events provide the community an opportunity to honor a relative, friend, or other victim and/or survivor with the new life of a tree or plant. These ceremonies may be held in conjunction with Arbor Week, Earth Day or Arbor Day, all during April. A planting ceremony also provides an excellent opportunity for you to partner with local home improvement businesses and greenhouses. You may consider asking these companies to donate trees or flowers to plant during your event.
We encourage you to begin planning at least three months prior to the event date. These events may take place in local parks, on college campuses, or in communities. You may need to contact local officials or campus administrators to find out what their procedure is for approving such events in your area. Finally, inviting public officials and knowledgeable speakers may bring more media attention to your event.
Walk a Mile in Her Shoes
These marches are designed to benefit rape crisis centers, but also provide a fun opportunity for men to educate the community about sexual violence. These events also rally the community to discuss the connection between gender relations and sexual violence, and to take action to prevent sexual violence. During the marches, men walk one mile in women’s high-heeled shoes to help men gain a better understanding and appreciation of women’s experiences.
While these events can be large or small, we encourage you to begin planning at least three months prior to the event date. You may partner with male groups on college campuses, especially fraternities, or male leaders in your community. Consider partnering with local businesses to provide women’s shoes. You may also invite your local media to cover the event. Finally, be sure to check with your local law enforcement official regarding legal status of your event and safety issues. See the organization’s website, www.walkamileinhershoes.org, for more information.
White Ribbon Campaign
This is a great project to do in conjunction with your local law enforcement agencies and colleges and makes for a great press event. The goals of the campaign are to involve men in working to end men’s violence against women, to raise awareness of this problem in the community, and to support organizations that deal with the consequences of men’s violence against women. Men who choose to participate wear the white ribbon and sign a pledge card stating that they will never commit, condone, or remain silent about violence against women. Visit http://www.whiteribbon.ca/ for more information.
Event descriptions courtesy of: NSVRC, California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA), Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs (KASAP), North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NCCASA)