Mercyhurst promotes sexual assault awareness month


Hailey Steidle, Staff writer

Every year during the month of April, the world recognizes Sexual Assault Awareness Month, commonly referred to as SAAM.
The mission of SAAM is to raise awareness of sexual violence that takes place around the world in hopes of educating communities on ways to prevent it.
This year marks to 22nd annual year of the world recognizing SAAM with a theme of “Drawing Connections: Prevention Demands Equity.” Every year individuals recognize this month as an opportunity to honor the resilience of survivors in the process of healing all while showcasing such an important issue.
One of the most well-known activities that takes place every April in order to bring awareness to SAAM is national Denim Day. Denim Day is the current longest running prevention and education campaign of sexual violence.
On this day community members, elected officials, businesses and students make a social statement through their clothes by wearing jeans as a way to protest common misconceptions that surround sexual violence.
Sexual assault awareness is an important matter because of how common of an act that it is.
This act of violence can affect anyone from any community, gender, sexual orientation, or age.
Every 68 seconds, an individual in the United States is sexually assaulted. More than 1 in 3 women, 1 in 4 men and 48% of transgender people experience sexual violence. Of these numbers, women of color experience sexual violence at a disproportionately higher rate. It is an incredibly serious public health crisis that can impact the victim for their entire life.
Having awareness is incredibly important to acknowledge on a college campus because not every individual may have experienced or had knowledge of sexual violence before coming to college.
National averages indicate 13% of college students have experienced rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitations.
These acts are often accompanied by other forms of violence. Perpetrators are often someone that the victim knows in some capacity.
People who may be friends, current or former intimate partners, coworkers, neighbors, or family members can commit these heinous acts.
There is a plethora of ways to get involved and be an ally to someone who may have experienced sexual violence.
Activities like initiating a conversation in private in which you listen to what they tell you, validate their feelings, take it seriously, and support and respect their decisions can all allow for the individual you are interacting with to feel supported.
It is important to go into any situation with an open mind, avoid victim blaming, and to challenge any false attitudes or beliefs that you may have previously had. There will never be a quick fix for situations like this, so it is incredibly important to keep in mind that you must let go of expectations that you had going into it.
The effects of sexual assault are often lifelong, and it is necessary to understand the resources that you or the individuals you are interacting with have access too.
Please reach out to the Counseling Center or Residence Life for a list of campus and local reasources.