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Strength in numbers: #30DaysofSAAM unites advocates

Polaroids of photos from the contest against a rainbow background

By Susan Sullivan
Prevention Campaign Specialist, National Sexual Violence Resource Center

For the past six years, the #30DaysofSAAM Instagram contest has been a popular and integral part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). The contest encourages creative engagement around SAAM, generates conversations around sexual violence, consent, and healthy relationships, and – of course – awards prizes. One of the less obvious benefits of the contest is the sense of unity and strength that it generates among participants and those of us who are looking on.   

The concept behind the contest is simple: Each day in April, NSVRC provides an open-ended prompt (such as My Self-Care Snack or Positivity Reminder) and participants respond on their Instagram pages by posting original photos, videos, or digital art. Every year the contest attracts new participants, and this year was no exception – there were over 7,000 submissions by the end of the April. The majority of participation comes from local service-based programs, like rape crisis centers, and from survivors and allies.   

While participation is incentivized by prizes, the real draw of the #30DaysofSAAM extends beyond competition. The contest submissions give us all a glimpse of the scope of SAAM. We see photos of folks hunched over poster board with teal markers in hand, waving from behind resource tables, and securing bright teal ribbons around lamp posts. These individuals might be strangers in real life, but to those of us who do this work, it doesn’t quite feel that way. Working to end sexual assault, harassment, and abuse can sometimes feel very siloed. When we can see thousands of photos of people expressing our same passion to create change, the world can instantly feel brighter.   

When we can see thousands of photos of people expressing our same passion to create change, the world can instantly feel brighter.   

We always say that Sexual Assault Awareness Month is about more than awareness – it’s about prevention – but I also think it’s about unity. It’s a time when our efforts are most visible, most momentous, and powerful. Part of that visibility is thanks to the connection we gain when we share photos of our work online, and the #30DaysofSAAM just happens to be one of the vehicles we can use to find this connection. When we talk about the work we do during SAAM, we often overlook the fact that social media is very much a public space. After all, sharing content online is a way of reaching, educating, and even inspiring a community (including a community of your peers), even if it isn’t physical.   

If there’s one thing that we can take away from this year’s submissions, it’s that there is a lot of work being done out there (year-round!) by dedicated staff, volunteers, and individuals. While we can’t measure the wide-reaching impact of SAAM events, just witnessing the scope of what’s being done can instill you with a sense of positivity, unity, and hopefulness about the direction we’re headed. 

Learn more

I hope you’ll take a look at the submissions this year by searching #30DaysofSAAM on Instagram, and invite you to join in next year’s contest. If you’re interested in getting a jump start on brainstorming prompt responses, be sure to check out www.nsvrc.org/saam this fall when the new campaign materials are posted.   

Check out some of the daily prompt winners: 

Day 1: How I gear up for SAAM

Three young people putting up large teal ribbons on a lamppost
@abetterwaymuncie

Day 18: Believe Survivors

Woman holding up a dry erase board that says "I believe survivors because they are brave!"
@fear_2_freedom

Day 9: DIY SAAM

Woman sitting on top of a large concrete block on which "Take Back the Night," stars, and a moon are painted
@eunicekkwon

Day 20: I feel grounded when...

Group of people doing yoga
@ywcawcmi

Day 17: Hero: A tribute to someone
working to end sexual violence

Young woman wearing a NO MORE shirt and holding up a photo of Mariska Hargitay
@thescarfoundation

Day 30: Real talk: What SAAM means to me

Picture of a young woman next to the text: "SAAM mean everything to me because I have so many friends who were sexually assaulted, and they didn't deserve what happened to them. I get to educate others in the hopes that they won't have to go thru the same, as well as provide a safe space for sexual assault survivors to feel safe and be heard."
@csusbvoicepeers

This article appears in the Spring 2019 print edition of The Resource.

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