By Elianna Novitch
A month of activities dedicated to addressing and prompting action regarding sexual assault has kicked off as April gets underway.
The Rape Victim Advocacy Program has partnered with other community organizations to put on this year’s Sexual Assault Activism Month. The local event coincides with the national Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
“About two or three years ago, we changed the name to Sexual Assault Activism Month, and that change was really intentional to move people away from awareness and toward action,” RVAP Assistant Director of prevention and outreach Susan Junis said. “The awareness is a really passive stance, and we want the community to be active in working to end sexual violence. We changed the name of it to reflect that priority.”
Some of the community partners involved with the activism month include the Women’s Resource & Action Center, Nisaa African Family Services, Monsoon United Asian Women of Iowa, and Domestic Violence Intervention Program.
“One of the things that’s really critical about the partnerships that is helping RVAP drive these events is diversity of the groups,” RVAP Director Adam Robinson said. “Hopefully, throughout the month we’ve got some events that are as inclusive as possible and help to shine as broad a light on this as we can.”
WRAC has a long-standing history of being involved with the activism month. WRAC has hosted Take Back the Night, one of the biggest events of the month, for more than 25 years.
“Since its founding, WRAC has worked for greater equity in our community, and an important piece of that is creating safe environments for everyone,” Martha Pierce, the WRAC assistant director and violence-prevention program coordinator said in an email. “To have a safe community, we have to address the issue of sexual violence. Because this is still an impactful issue that needs to be addressed, it is important to have time set aside to center the work that happens to prevent sexual violence and support survivors.”
A variety of events are scheduled that aim to be inclusive for all. Some include a Queer Thrift Shop Pop-Up, Consent Karaoke, and Take Back the Night.
“I went to the Take Back the Night event last year, and that was one of the first real experiences I had hearing from survivors in person. It’s such a powerful experience,” RVAP volunteer Abby Dickson said. “I’m excited that it’s happening again. I’m also really excited for Consent Karaoke, because I think that is such a good and funny way to spread information.”
With the rise of the #MeToo movement and #TimesUp in recent months, Robinson said, it will be interesting to see how, and if, it affects this year’s activism month.
“I think that one thing that’s certainly unique this year versus years past is that sexual assault and sexual harassment have been much more mainstream topics and discussions throughout the year than they had been previously,” Robinson said. “We’re trying to highlight this epidemic in April because it’s not talked about. So those movements and the courageous folks who are driving those movements have helped, hopefully, this particular April … to be more engaging and more accessible to folks who have been paying attention and are thinking about the realities of sexual violence.”