After #SAAM: Where Do We Go From Here?

Wrapping up the final days of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (#SAAM) we can sit back and reflect on the major events in the beginning of the year to raise awareness to sexual violence. The nation watched as House Reps debated ratifying the bill to limit the services offered to Native Americans and LBGT but that measure was rejected. On February 28, 2013 Congress emerged with the Senate’s version of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (#VAWA), providing care for all victims of crime. The bill provides funding for community prevention programs and various services such as legal aid and shelter after the victims have already been assaulted.

In April, groups around the world gathered to recognize Denim Day, citing that there is never an excuse or invitation for rape. Many cities held rallies and press conferences to call out elected officials in the fight to educate, raise awareness, and prevent future assaults. The Denim Day rally made national headlines in Los Angeles and NYC, bringing attention to societies rape culture. The Office of Crime Victims highlighted April 21st- April 27th as National Crime Victims' Rights Week honoring the courageousness of crime victims, their advocates, and promoting victims’ rights. 
 
Although we have made progress by acknowledging there is an issue with sexual violence in the nation, we have yet to fully tackle accountability. In cases like Steubenville, we saw people sympathizing with the attackers and questioning what would happen to their future without acknowledging that a young teen’s life has been dramatically changed forever. Twitter users scolded major media outlets for their contribution to the rape culture and victim shaming and apologies were made but where is the accountability? 
 
There should be a focus on education in our school systems as well as community outreach teaching us healthy relationship behaviors. As a part of societies’ rape culture, the prevention and blame still relies on the victims rather than the accused. The reauthorization of the 1994 VAWA was significant step in assisting female victims of crime but the question remains: when will we shift from reactive legislation to proactive education?