April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (#SAAM). Safe Berks held a special SAAM kickoff event for staff on Tuesday, April 5, at Safe Berks. During this event, “Recognizing & Remembering Victims of Sexual Assault – Known & Unknown,” Safe Berks staff and advocates planted 250 pinwheels. These pinwheels symbolize local victims of sexual assault.
Each pinwheel is inscribed with the Safe Berks logo, and inspiring messages including, “There is Hope” and “You are Not Alone.” There are also signs with the message, “Prevention Begins with Awareness.”
“Sexual Assault Awareness Month is important because sexual assault is sometimes viewed as a taboo subject that not many people want to talk about; however, it needs to be discussed in order to raise awareness about the issue and educate people about how to prevent it,” said Delio Santana, Manager of Education and Outreach Programs at Safe Berks. “SAAM is our time to focus the attention on the prevalence of sexual assault, honor the voices and experiences of the survivors, and equip our community with tips and resources they can use to support these survivors.”
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), 1 in 5 women in the United States experience rape or attempted rape in their lifetime, and nearly 25% of men in the United States experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime. According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), a sexual assault occurs every 68 seconds in this country. Every nine minutes, that victim is a child. According to RAINN, most sexual assaults are not reported to police.
As part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Safe Berks staff also watched and discussed the film, The Invisible War, a 2012 documentary about sexual assault in the United States military. This award-winning film has been credited by advocates and lawmakers for its influence on government policies to reduce sexual assault in the armed forces.
Throughout the month of April, the Safe Berks Education and Outreach Department will provide additional training opportunities to Safe Berks staff and other care providers throughout Pennsylvania. Safe Berks staff have created educational webinars on the following topics: Sexual Assault 101; Digital Consent; Sexual Assault Issues in the LGBTQ+ Community; and Sexual Assault Issues in the Hispanic Community. These webinars, which have been created in both English and Spanish, will air on the Safe Berks Facebook page.
Safe Berks staff will also share messages of support and awareness to victims of sexual assault throughout April on our social media, which includes Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
Each year, Safe Berks provides services to thousands of local survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Services include shelter, counseling, legal services, medical advocacy, community outreach and response, and education.
In addition to our direct services for victims of sexual assault, Safe Berks also leads a County-wide Sexual Assault Response Team (SART), led by Marissa Pham, Co-Manager of Community Outreach and Response/SART Coordinator. The Team meets each month. Members include professionals from the District Attorney’s office, law enforcement, Safe Berks staff, and hospital personnel – particularly Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) nurses. The SART Team works together to provide compassionate, trauma-informed services to survivors of sexual assault, and to make reporting and prosecuting sexual assault less traumatic for victims.