April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

In the month of April, Verde Valley Sanctuary (VVS) recognizes National Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). We take this moment to reflect on the strength and resilience of survivors and victims, the perseverance of advocates, and the dedication of the professionals in many fields who support those who experience sexual violence. The term “sexual assault” is an umbrella term that includes all of the following: Rape; Molestation; Unwanted sexual contact of any other form; Sexual harassment; Incest; Child sexual abuse; Sexual violence, even with an intimate partner; Sexual exploitation; Human trafficking; Voyeurism.

Sexual violence causes life-changing trauma for far too many of our neighbors, colleagues, family, and friends. The CDC has found that about 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men suffer sexual violence at some point in their lives. And while you may not have personally been the victim of sexual violence, it is likely that you do know someone who is, even if they have not shared that information publicly. This trauma can be compounded by institutions and cultural perceptions that blame survivors for their victimization, rather than those that perpetrate the violence. Survivors deserve to be met wherever they are at in their journey for healing, accountability, and justice. The COVID-19 pandemic merely added another layer of risk to help-seeking due to isolation and fear associated with contracting the virus.

Every April, Sexual Assault Awareness Month strives to elevate the voices of survivors of sexual violence with a  mission is to increase awareness and educate communities on how to prevent and respond to it. In that spirit, VVS is dedicated daily to addressing the needs of underserved and marginalized survivors, improving access to justice, enhancing survivor safety, and building a coordinated community response to addressing sexual violence.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing any of these or experiences them in the future, call the police or Verde Valley Sanctuary (928) 634-2511. Sexual assault is a crime, and no one should take it lightly. Do not be afraid to speak out if this happens to you.

Ways to show your support

  1. Learn about sexual assault – and how you can support survivors https://verdevalleysanctuary.org/sa-friends-family-guide/
  2. Use Social Media – Use #SAAM, #SexualAssaultAwarenessMonth, or #SexualAssaultAwareness to post on social media. This month, use your voice and any platform you have to help end sexual assault. Post your personal SAAM message on Facebook. Like Verde Valley Sanctuary’s Facebook page. Let’s educate and end sexual assault together!
  3. Wear the Color Teal – Show your support for survivors of sexual violence by wearing teal — the color of sexual violence prevention — on April  6th and post a selfie to Twitter or Instagram using #SAAM2021. By wearing teal, you’re signaling that you support survivors, and are a safe person to talk to if they need to reach out. 
  4. Start by Believing – End victim shaming. By eliminating the stigma victims suffer, providing support to victims, and increasing awareness programs, we are slowly but surely able to decrease and eliminate sexual abuse and assault.
  5. Intervene as a Bystander – Stepping in when you see harmful behaviors. Anyone can take small actions to contribute to sexual violence prevention with bystander intervention. It only takes one action to stop a potential sexual assault before anyone is harmed.
  6. Talk to your friends – about this issue and what you can do to prevent sexual assault.
  7. Advocate – for legislation that supports survivors.
  8. Incorporate policies and practices – that support violence prevention.
  9. Maintain strong survivor services – making it clear that sexual violence is not tolerated. Verde Valley Sanctuary is the sole provider of support services in the Verde Valley for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking.
  10. Support the work of the Verde Valley Sanctuary – Shop at Verde Valley Sanctuary’s Twice Nice Thriftiques in Sedona, Cottonwood, and Camp Verde; donate; and volunteer.

We encourage everyone to find ways to learn more this National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Sexual violence is a horrific problem, but the good news is that prevention and intervention are possible.

If you have experienced sexual violence at any point in your life, you are not alone. There is support and safety waiting for you, and you can reach Verde Valley Sanctuary’s Crisis Helpline at (928) 634-2511, the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673, or Stronghearts Native Helpline at 1-844-4NATIVE (762-8483) for culturally appropriate support and advocacy.

As April passes into May, we hope that you continue to meet victims and survivors with compassion when they reach out for help, to advocate for justice, and to support the people and organizations in our communities who are doing this life-saving work of reducing harm and trauma, prioritizing accountability, and paving the way for healing. For more information about Verde Valley Sanctuary or to make a donation, contact Community Development Director Tracey McConnell at (928) 282-2755, development@verdevalleysanctuary.org, or visit the website https://verdevalleysanctuary.org.

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