Oswego, NY – April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). The goal of SAAM is to raise public awareness about sexual violence and educate communities on how to prevent it. This year, SAAM is celebrating its 18th anniversary with the theme “I Ask.” We know that one month alone isn’t enough to solve the serious and widespread issue of sexual violence. However, the attention April generates is an opportunity to energize an expand prevention efforts throughout the year.
Sexual assault is a serious and widespread problem. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, nearly one in five women in the US have experienced rape or attempted rape at some point in their lives, and one in 67 American men have experienced rape or attempted rape. Additionally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender are just as likely, if not more likely, to experience sexual violence as compared to heterosexual individuals. Chances are you know someone who has experienced sexual violence even if they haven’t told you.
Sexual violence is any type of unwanted sexual contact. It can include rape, sexual harassment, inappropriate touching, and sharing private images without permission. Anyone can experience sexual violence, including children, teens, adults, and senior. The vast majority of these crimes are at the hands of someone the victims know, such as an intimate partner, family member or friend, or an acquaintance.
In solidarity with communities across the nation, Oswego County Opportunities (OCO) Services to Aid Families (SAF) program is encouraging community members to use their voice to support survivors, speak out against victim blaming, and promote healthy, consensual relationships. As the domestic violence and rape crisis program for Oswego County, SAF served more than 600 victims and survivors of relationship abuse and sexual violence in 2018.
“Sexual Assault Awareness Month is about more than awareness – the ultimate goal is prevention,” said SAF Community Response Coordinator Stacie France. “Since consent is a clear, concrete example of what it takes to end sexual harassment, abuse, and assault, it only makes sense that this year’s theme centers on empowering all of us to put consent into practice.”
SAF is collaborating with individuals and community partners on a number of initiatives this April to raise awareness, support victims and survivors in our community, and promote consent. SAF’s annual Clothesline Project will be displayed in SUNY Oswego’s Campus Center, at Cayuga Community College’s Fulton Campus, and at Oswego High School. This project is a national campaign in which those affected by abuse and violence decorate T-Shirts displaying messages that reflect the long-lasting impact of violence on their lives.
SAF is also collaborating with SUNY Oswego and Cayuga Community College’s Fulton Campus to bring the “What Were You Wearing?” survivor art installation to their respective campuses. This powerful exhibit features stories of sexual violence and representations of what victims were wearing at the time of their assault. “The installation challenges victim blaming and proves that clothing has nothing to do with sexual violence,” said France. “Our hope is people who see this exhibit will understand that victims are not to blame for the abuse or violence that has been perpetrated on them and it is never the victims fault.”
If you or someone you know is a survivor of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual violence, stalking, or elder abuse, please call the SAF Crisis Hotline at (315) 342-1600. The hotline is staffed by trained counselors and is available 24 hours. SAF is the domestic violence and rape crisis program for Oswego County and has provided crisis, supportive, advocacy and educational services throughout Oswego County for 40 years.
OCO, Inc. is a private, non-profit agency that has been supporting communities throughout Oswego County since 1966. A member agency of the United Way of Greater Oswego County, OCO provides more than 50 vital services throughout 100 separate locations. For more information, visit www.oco.org. Did you know? It’s OCO