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Crime Victim Advocate Shannon Ozzella: April Sexual Assault Awareness Month


“You’re not a victim for sharing your story.  You are a survivor setting the world on fire with your truth.  And you never know who needs your light, your warmth, and raging courage”, -Alex Elle

Sexual Assault Awareness Month, observed each April, is a campaign that aims to increase awareness about the causes and risk factors for sexual assault and empower individuals to take steps to prevent it in their communities.  Observed as an opportunity to promote education and the prevention of sexual violence, sexual assault awareness month traces its history to the 1970’s when activists first began organizing on a national scale to reduce sexual assault and violence against women.  Advocates fought tirelessly to bring a topic once taboo for public discussion out of the shadows and shed light on a widespread problem of sexual assault.

     By the 1980’s, The National Coalition Against Sexual Assault was mobilizing groups across the country to take action at higher levels.  In 1994, after a long campaign, congress passed The Violence Against Women Act, the first legisation to require law enforcement to treat domestic violence and rape as a crime and not a private matter.

     In 2001 the first Sexual Assault Awareness Month once again brought the issue into public consciousness and reinvorgorated a national network of events and support groups that raise awareness and provide resources to survivors and those at risk.  The rape, abuse, and incest national network supports a network of over a thousand rape crisis centers.

In 2009, President Obama was the first president to officially declare April National Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

     Sexual Assault Awareness sheds light on an important issue. It gives advocates the tools and resources to engage their communities in sexual assault prevention and education.

     This years theme, Sexual Assault Awareness Month, We Can Build Safe Online Spaces.  In todays internet era, friends, family, romantic partners, and strangers interact online everyday, using dating apps,chats, social media, and other ways to meet and connect.  It’s important for people to understand that while many positive relationships can be created this way, there are also dangers in this type of interaction.  Some sexual violence is initated online and then takes place in person, or takes place entirerly behind a screen.

     This year Sexual Assault Awareness Month strives to raise awareness about how we can all keep ourselves and our children safe from abuse online – and where survivors  can go for support. 

     Help is available 24/7.   National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673

For local assistance, Cattaraugus Community Action provides assistance to Cattaraugus and Allegany County.  24 hour hotline 1-888-945-3970

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