April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month
April 12, 2011
It's April. For many of us, it is the month of welcoming spring, paying our taxes, and enjoying new flowers. Take a stroll through the greeting card department to find a card for any one of these occasions. But there's one you won't find.
It's National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Arguably, it is not an event we want to celebrate or turn into the next "Hallmark holiday." It deserves our attention, but not our celebration.
Every two minutes someone in the United States is sexually assaulted. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), the last major study of specific sexual assaults revealed 248,300 victims in 2007.
In 1999, I was one of them. Since my personal experience with rape, National Sexual Assault Awareness Month has taken on a bittersweet meaning. It is not an easy month for me, but a major part of my healing took place when I was introduced to and joined with Feminists for Life.
FFL asked me to take a bold step. They asked me to share my story of learning I was pregnant after my rape and not knowing who the father was--the rapist or my then-boyfriend. I agreed in the hope that we could begin a very courageous conversation. Sexual assault is not an easy or fun topic to discuss and it is often dismissed as an exception to the abortion rule, rarely getting attention from the pro-life movement.
FFL's history was different. FFL was the only pro-life group in a coalition to support the Violence Against Women Act and consistently takes a pro-woman, pro-life stance in all of its approaches. FFL not only inspired me, it gave me the outlet to help others.
Three years ago in 2007, I joined with FFL to share my story on college campuses. The results far exceeded our expectations. Not only did I gain strength and victory over violence done to me, I was able to bring messages of hope to students who desperately needed an outlet to talk about this "hot topic" on their campuses.
Victims who had never shared their stories before came up to me after my talks, finally breaking their silence. College men wanted to know what they could do to help. University administrators acknowledged sexual assault was a problem. And once the silence was broken, the solutions could begin.
I found we had things to say that our audiences were desperate to hear. Victims needed to hear that they are stronger than they ever knew. Audiences needed to be challenged with the idea that the "paternity" of the child isn't the only factor in cases of rape: who the mother is matters too. My son was my son, as much as he was potentially the rapist's. Everyone was apprehensive to start the conversation, not only about rape and sexual assault on college campuses, but especially about how this can drive women to abortion. Three years later, we are all confident we have done the right thing.
So it's April. It's National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. You don't need a card to spread the news. Take action (see below). Join us.
Keep the revolution alive. March forth!
Because women deserve better,
P.S. I'll be speaking in Iowa on the 19th. If you, your friends, or family are in the area, please come!