Sexual Assault ________ Month

What’s in a name? There’s an inevitable tug-o-war we enter when it comes to naming. It’s important to acknowledge that names have a power to them, as all words do. We also attach identity, understanding and meaning to a name. At the same time, can something be limited to a name? Of course not, a name or word can only capture so much. That’s why names are dynamic – names can change, titles can grow, and a nickname can be tacked on too. There’s also a power in knowing that nothing ends with a name – there are many ways to express purpose, meaning and identity.

The movement to end sexual violence is a movement where the power of words is recognized. Words can hurt, heal, clarify or complicate, and it’s even been said that there is a language to our movement that is all our own. (See: preventionists, anti-sexual violence, or use of acronyms) This sense of empowered naming translates into our activism as well. When we talk about sexual violence, we speak up, declare and proclaim.

Each year, this leads us to a discussion about Sexual Assault Awareness Month aka SAAM. Is the goal of SAAM and the mission of our movement captured in this four-word name? Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Simply put, it doesn’t. Sexual Assault Awareness Month is not just about awareness; it is also about prevention, education, activism, and social change. It’s also not just a time to honor the prevalence of sexual assault as sexual violence represents a spectrum of activities and attitudes which we are working to end.   

The conversation is ongoing. Is this work better captured by Sexual Assault Activism Month? How do we fit “prevention” in the title? Is it a disservice to the work we’ve already done to move away from a title that is already recognized? Does it just make sense to stick with the widely-used “awareness month” model?

To be honest, I'm pretty fond of SAAM. It’s a name that over-time has gained familiarity, personality and strength. That said, I want SAAM to move beyond awareness and realize a vision of prevention and long-term social change. It’s a tall order, and this requires more than a name or even words. It requires movement, action and doing from all of us.

How would you fill in the blank? Sexual Assault _______ Month?

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