April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month
Sexual assault statistics are both significant and invisible. 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before they turn 18 years old. While in college, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men are sexually assaulted in college. Many survivors never report their assault. With so many hidden survivors, bringing attention to the real impacts of this crime—the numbers of boys and girls, men and women who have experienced rape — is a difficult task. Unshame, a grassroots campaign founded in Gainesville, Florida, is borrowing from the lessons observed from the important work of breast cancer awareness efforts by encouraging survivors to come forward and make visible the people behind the statistics.
Unshame proposes a courageous means to address the shame that too often accompanies the trauma of sexual assault. By recognizing that shame is one of the initial factors that will impact a person’s decision to disclose, report, or seek support following a sexual assault, this campaign forges new conversations and helps more people see and believe that there is no shame in being a sexual assault survivor. Sexual assault touches the lives of all of us. Our sisters and brothers. Our classmates, neighbors and co-workers. We make it about us in order for people to replace shame with respect, attention, support and additional research.
Survivors of sexual assault may experience many emotions, but shame does not have to be one of them. Unshame invites individuals to boldly participate and become part of a campaign to bring visibility to the people behind the statistics. Every sexual assault survivor –whether their assault was ever reported, prosecuted, or not—is invited to wear a Me too wristband, button, or temporary tattoo. Organizations interested in creating these items for their communities can order and have the items within a week. All the information you need to share this campaign with your staff, community, and survivors is attached in the Unshame Me too toolkit. Participants are encouraged to talk about and share this with clients, friends, and colleagues. Those interested can wear these symbols throughout the month of April.
For some, wearing such an overt symbol is a daunting choice and we respect that this may not be the right choice for everyone. There is no shame in choosing not to participate. Unshame encourages individuals to decide for themselves if they are ready to participate, and importantly, to also consider if doing so is safe based on their individual circumstance.
Unshame understands that many survivors might want to participate, but may not want to share the circumstances of their assault. Wearing a button or wristband does not require a detailed response. If asked “what does your button/tattoo stand for?” the organizers suggest the following responses:
- I’m wearing this button because it is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
- It’s a way of making visible the numbers of people directly impacted by sexual assault.
- Go to unshame.org or (a participating rape Crisis program website) for a great explanation.
- I wear this button because I am a voice/face for sexual assault survivors.
For those who want to be a part of this movement in another way, Unshame encourages good folks everywhere to copy and paste one of the following messages into their website or social media feed during the month of April:
Join me: I stand for consent.
Join me: because there is no shame in being a survivor of sexual assault.
Let’s start talking about how we can eliminate rape in our lifetime.
Incorporate these words in a press release and any of the artwork and words in our toolkit to implement the campaign in your community. It’s a simple and effective means for gaining support for the good work of rape crisis centers. Together we can end the shame that sexual assault survivors experience.
We convince by our presence.
~ Walt Whitman