The Importance of Sexual Assault Awareness Month

By: Adriana Miranda

TW: sexual assault, violence

Did you know that 1 in every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape? But this doesn’t just affect women. Men who are students and 18-24 years old are FIVE times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than men of the same age who are not students. Transgender, genderqueer and nonconforming (TGQN) students are also at higher risk than other college students (source for all of these here). And these are just reported cases; who knows how much larger the number is for people who don’t ever talk about their assault? That being said, SA is something that affects us all. If you have friends who are women or TGQN, there’s a high chance they’ve experienced some form of SA. If you have male friends there is a chance they’ve experienced the same.

This is why SA Awareness Month (SAAM) exists. It’s a time for us to come together to raise awareness and to take action against sexual assault.

The Women’s Center is dedicated to spreading awareness about SA and this SAAM. As part of our programming, we participated in Denim Day on April 26, 2022. Denim Day began as the result of a court case that victim-blamed a woman for her assault. Why? The Italian Supreme Court ruled that her jeans were too tight for her rapist to remove by himself, so she must have helped remove them.  This past Wednesday, we also shared a“What Were They Wearing” display to share the stories of SA victims, heard from a survivor speaker, and finished out the event with healing arts and snacks as a break from the heavy subject matter.

 

Two Months of Change

by Ann Varner

Two months ago, I started working at the UMKC Women’s Center. I had no idea how much I was going to learn in such a short period of time. I knew that I supported feminism and I wanted to do more than support. I wanted to become educated and to use that education in my everyday life.

UMKC Women’s Center staff members Ann Varner (left) and Zaquoya Rogers (right). 

One of the first things I learned was to embrace my body and stop being so hard on myself. For the first time in a long time, my confidence slowly built up. When that happened, I started to look forward to getting up in the morning and putting together my outfits, jewelry, and makeup. With positive reinforcement from my friends and coworkers, my confidence continued to climb. I learned I enjoy participating in healing arts projects, even though I consider myself artistically challenged.  During sexual assault awareness month (April), I learned about Denim Day, as well as the documentary Audrie and Daisy. I had heard of rape culture before, but now not only am I educated about it, it’s something I’m passionate to fight against. Most importantly, I am finding myself thinking feminist thoughts and have been surrounding myself with sources to continue to learn. Looking back, these two months have taught me so much and already have started to change me for the better. I can’t wait to find out what will happen in the next semester.

 

What Normalizes Violence in our Culture?

by Thea Voutiritsas

In the U.S., April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). Though sexual assault seems like a clear no-no, our culture

SAAM 2017

enforces social norms that condone violence and negative power relations. Sexual assault is more than a person jumping out of the bushes; its any type of unwanted sexual contact, ranging from sexist attitudes and actions to rape and murder.

Rape and sexual assault are a consequence of the power differential between men and women. Rape doesn’t happen just because one person chooses to rape another. Rape happens because there are attitudes and norms that allow it to happen. We live in a society that normalizes violence, using power over others, traditional constructs of masculinity, the subjugation of women, and silence about violence and abuse. These normalized behaviors are part of rape culture.

Rape culture is about the way we collectively think about rape as a society. Evidence of rape culture can be found in popular music, where “blurred lines” are just part of courtship, and no doesn’t really mean no. It is seen when a woman is blamed for getting drunk, or when a woman is asked “What were you wearing?” We see rape culture when women are told to prevent themselves from being raped, but men are not told not to rape. We see it in jokes that equate raping to winning video games or competitions. We see it when men are told to “wear the pants” in a relationship. We see it when men with multiple partners are “Casanovas,” yet women with multiple partners are “sluts.” We see it in entire categories of porn dedicated to harming or defeating women.

SAAM in April is an opportunity for us to check our thinking patterns. Ask yourself: What do I do, say, allow, or ignore that may contribute to rape culture? And what can I do to change that?