By Arlene Vassell, NRCDV’s Vice President of Programs, Prevention & Social Change

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM)! According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), even before its official declaration, SAAM was about both awareness and prevention of sexual assault, harassment, and abuse. Looking at the history of the movement to end sexual violence, it’s clear why: It’s impossible to prevent an issue no one knows about, and it’s difficult to make people aware of a problem without providing a solution. The two work in tandem, and they always have. From the civil rights movement to the founding of the first rape crisis centers to national legislation and beyond, the roots of SAAM run deep.

"You are your best thing" - Toni MorrisonFrom then until now, Black women have been and remain the leaders of the movement to end gender-based violence. Without Black women there is no movement. Despite immense barriers and heart-wrenching obstacles, Black women continue to show up and lead efforts to prevent sexual and domestic violence in their communities.

“The movement is greater than an institution. It’s greater than an organization. It’s greater than a few people who are holding power in a space. I’m a survivor of sexual violence. So I will always be in the movement. I cannot be erased.” – Valériana Chikoti-Bandua

This SAAM, join the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (NRCDV) and NSVRC in building safe online spaces, while honoring the legacy and contributions of Black women who began and continue to lead the movement. Say their names. Share their names.

“Memories of our lives, of our works, and our deeds will continue in the lives of others.” – Rosa Parks

As we continue on this journey towards collective liberation, let’s not minimize or dismiss the significant impact that sexual violence has on the most marginalized communities. Speak up about the connections between health equity and racial justice. Our ancestors have taught us that the past is connected to the present.

“Without the HERstory, it is not our story! Without our story, there is no solution.” – Arlene Vassell   

SAAM is about awareness and prevention, and the people most impacted by the problem are a vital part of the solution. The people and communities most impacted must be visible in the stories that are shared. Past and present.

The HERstory of the movement must be shared in a manner that honors the trailblazers who paved the pathway for us to be here today. Their important stories, dating back to 1866, have been erased or forgotten in the movement today. The labor for justice and equity, exploring the intersection of race and gender, began with Black women long before April 2001. The roots of SAAM run deep.

“Ain't I A Woman?” – Sojourner Truth

#1Thing you can do this Sexual Assault Awareness Month is utilize your online platform to share stories about the HERstory of the sexual violence movement and acknowledge the contributions of Black women in your organization and/or community.

Learn more about the HERstory of the movement