The City of Knoxville last month joined other cities across the country by recognizing April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
The official proclamation signing was held on Friday, April 12 at Knoxville City Hall. The signing gave steam to a month-long initiative, launched by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center in partnership with rape crisis centers across the nation, aimed at increasing visibility of sexual assault as a community issue that affects men and women from all walks of life.
“Sexual Assault Awareness Month draws attention to the fact that sexual violence is widespread and impacts us all in some capacity,” says Marion County Sexual Assault Advocate Hailey Brown from Crisis Intervention Services. “Rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment are a widespread epidemic. Statistics from the NSRVC show one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives. Even so, we know that the actual number of sexual assaults is much higher than reported, because of the hurdles survivors often face when disclosing an assault.”
The goal of SAAM is to raise public awareness about sexual violence and educate communities on how to prevent it.
“Child sexual abuse prevention is another big topic, not only in Knoxville – but across America. In order to make real change, we must first confront the reality that one in six boys and one in four girls will experience sexual assault before age 18,” she adds. “But prevention work doesn’t just end when people turn 18. That’s because on campus, one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted during their time in college.”
The theme of this year’s SAAM campaign was “I Ask.” The campaign champions the power of asking for consent — whether it be asking to hold someone’s hand, for permission to share personal information with others (especially online), or if a partner is interested in sex.
“Consent is a clear, concrete example of what it takes to end sexual harassment, abuse and assault,” Brown says. “The goal of the campaign is to empower all people to put consent into every day practice. This can be as simple as asking a child for a hug or a high-five, or asking a friend or partner permission before posting a photo or video of them online. It doesn’t always have to be about sex.”
Knoxville Mayor Brian Hatch signed the proclamation at City Hall. “With leadership and dedication, we can be successful in preventing sexual violence in Knoxville by increasing education, awareness, and community involvement,” part of the proclamation reads.
The Knoxville community is welcome to join CIS advocates and other communities across the country by taking action to prevent sexual violence. CIS advocates are available to provide education and presentations at schools, work places, religious places, and more. Furthermore, those affected by sexual violence (whether it be recent or long ago) have the option of utilizing CIS’ free and confidential services by calling the 24-hour crisis line at 1-800-270-1620 or by calling the main office at 641-673-0336.
“April may be Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but each day of the year is an opportunity to create change for the future,” Brown concludes.