Sexual Assault Awareness Month: A UCGHI Student Ambassador Reflection

April 21, 2022

Content Warning: This post includes a statement on sexual assault awareness.

"UC Speaks Up is a signature project of UCGHI's Women's Health, Gender and Empowerment COE that conducts public health research to understand the interplay of individual, interpersonal, and structural (cultural, community, and institutional) factors that shape intimate relationships and sexual and interpersonal violence among students. The initiative aims to improve the health, safety and well-being of all members of the University of California community.

This April is Sexual Assault Awareness month and UCGHI Student Ambassador, UC Survivors & Allies member and UC Irvine PhD student, Kalani Kieu-Diem Philips, MPH, CPH, reflects on the importance of bringing sexual assault awareness to college and university campuses….”

A crowd gathered outside with a woman holding up a sign that says Believe Survivors
Photo credit: PhotoPhiend 2011

Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) is more than a public awareness campaign. SAAM helps build community and fosters healing among survivors and those impacted by sexual assault and violence. Facilitating community building, support, and educational efforts as a mean of building awareness are key components of SAAM.

As more than 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced sexual violence involving physical contact during their lifetimes according to the CDC, this issue seems more important now than ever (1). College campuses are a particularly high-risk environment, where among undergraduates, 26.4% of women and 6.8% of men experience rape or sexual assault (2). Moreover, women ages 18-24 are also three times as likely to experience sexual assault than women not in that age group (2).

Increasing awareness, sharing resources, educating oneself, actively listening to survivors and their stories, being an ally, and being empathic are all ways to engage in SAAM. Preventing violence from happening is a community-wide effort and responsibility that takes more than effort on an individual level. As sexual assault and violence is a systemic issue, it is our collective responsibility to enact change and hold perpetrators accountable. Advocacy from students, staff, faculty, and university institutes like UCGHI is imperative to increase awareness of this issue.

We encourage you to learn more about sexual assault, its impacts on an individual and community levels, how you can be an effective bystander and how to advocate for survivors. Inspiring others through sharing stories, resources, and information can help us create a long-lasting community change, and hopefully prevent acts of sexual assault and violence from happening in the first place.

Lastly, if you, or anyone you know has been affected by sexual assault or violence, we encourage you to reach out to UC support services and resources which you can find via the Resources for Support page on the UC Speaks Up website.

You can also seek support from a trained sexual assault service providers 24/7 via the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.