Sexual Assault Awareness Month aims to shed a light on a difficult subject

Michelle Wulfson, The Huntsville Item, Texas
·4 min read

Apr. 17—SAAFE House, in partnership with the Sexual Assault Awareness Month Committee at Sam Houston State University, will be hosting virtual and in-person events through April, to educate the community and show support for survivors, while inspiring some to step forward in reporting their experience.

"It's extremely important because the number of people who actually report is far less than the amount of people that are being victimized," SAAFE House community relations director Dena Scott said.

Sexual assault effects millions of people each year in the United States, though it is impossible to know exactly how many due to many victims choosing not to report their assault for fear of victim blaming, judgement and a feeling of being alone.

According to Scott, across America, one in six women and one in ten men are victims of attempted rape, and every 73 seconds, someone is sexually assaulted. Narrowing the scope to our home in the Lone Star State, 6.3 million, or 33.2 percent of adult Texans report having experienced sexual assault in their lifetime.

This Sexual Assault Awareness Month, organizations like SAAFE House are working to help the community show support for survivors and create safe environments, while promoting social norms that protect against violence and empowering victims.

The SAAFE House kicked off the month by decorating the town with teal ribbons in support of sexual assault survivors and has since participated in a rally and demonstration at the Walker County Courthouse for SAAM. A Survivor & Ally Art Event at SHSU campus followed, along with Chalk the Walk for Survivors, which left positive and encouraging chalk drawings and quotes around town.

"Just last week, when we had our rally at the courthouse, one of our former clients drove by and saw us out there and posted on social media how much it was a comfort to her to see both female and male out on the street in support of SAAM. She said it made her cry, and it was powerful for us because we never really know how people are responding if they don't tell us, so to hear from her that she saw us and that made her feel empowered and strong is super important for us," Scott said. "Just to make sure that people know they are not alone is one of the major things we try to focus on in SAAM."

In partnership with the SHSU department of Victim Studies and the SHSU Crime Victims Institute, SAAFE House will be collecting items and constructing after care kits on Tuesday that will be continuously donated to Huntsville Memorial Hospital for survivors of sexual abuse.

Organizers are asking for brand new t-shirts, sweatpants and underwear of all sizes for victims to leave the hospital in. Toiletry items such as soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste are also needed, as well as journals and pens, crossword puzzles, word searches or coloring books with colored pencils for adults and children to help keep their mind off of the stress of their situation. Teddy bears or plushy stuffed animals are also requested for comfort.

"It's nice to have something, because you come in and you have to leave a lot of what you have behind, whether it's your clothing or you can't take anything into the exam room with you," Scott said. "A lot of times, they don't let anyone go with you, which is why it's nice that they let our advocates sometimes go in, I think it's a great comfort."

SAAFE House provides advocacy and counseling to victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault, staying by their side at the hospital through their exams and advocating for them in court.

"It really is just all about letting someone know that they're not alone and we put information about SAAFE House in there," Scott added.

The month will finish out with a virtual Netflix watch party of the sexual assault documentary,

"Roll Red Roll," on April 19, followed by a Sexual Assault Awareness Panel hosted by the SHSU Department of Victim Studies on April 21 in the courtroom of the Beto Building at SHSU. Virtual fundraising event, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, by the SHSU Criminal justice Graduate Student Organization will be held on April 22 and #denimday on April 28, encouraging the community to share their denim outfits on social media in support of survivors.

The Take Back the Night March will conclude the month's activities on April 28 to reclaim the night as a time of non-violence and honor survivors for their strength. The march will start at 1426 Sam Houston Avenue, departing at 4:30 p.m. and will end with a rally at the Walker County Courthouse featuring guest speakers from SAAFE House, Huntsville Police Department and the Walker County District Attorney's Office. Survivors will be present and sharing their stories with the community.

Collections for the After Care Kits are on-going every few months and donations can continue to be made throughout the year if unable to make it by Tuesday. To set up an appointment to donate, call the SAAFE House office at (936)291-3369.