Women's organized protests against violence began in the late 1970s in England, with Take Back the Night marches. These women-only protests emerged in direct response to the violence that women encountered as they walked the streets at night. These activities became more coordinated and soon developed into a movement that extended to the United States and, by 1978, the first Take Back the Night events in the U.S. were held in San Francisco and New York City. Over time, sexual assault awareness activities expanded to include the issue of sexual violence against men and men’s participation in ending sexual violence.
By the early 1980s, substantial interest developed in coordinating activities to raise awareness of violence against women. As a result, time was set aside during October to raise awareness of violence against women issues. Over time, October became the principle focus of domestic violence awareness activities. Sexual assault advocates looked for a separate time to focus attention on sexual assault issues.
In the late 1980s, the National Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NCASA) informally polled state sexual assault coalitions to determine when to have a national Sexual Assault Awareness Week. A week in April was selected. Over time, however, some advocates began focusing attention on sexual violence throughout the month of April. In the late 1990s, many advocates began coordinating activities throughout the month of April on a regular basis, promoting an idea for a nationally recognized month for sexual violence awareness activities.
From 2000-2001, the Resource Sharing Project (RSP) and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), polled state, territory, and tribal coalitions and found that the color teal was the preferred color for sexual assault awareness and prevention and April was the most preferred month to coordinate national sexual assault awareness activities, respectively. As a result, Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) was first observed nationally in April 2001.
Since then, the NSVRC has continued to promote a degree of national unity in voice and action regarding SAAM activities, encourage interaction and feedback from across the nation, and build momentum based on the previous years’ activities. The NSVRC has provided resources to advocates nationwide to help them plan SAAM activities in their communities during April and throughout the year. These resources have included publications (e.g., newsletters, booklets, and directories); prevention materials (e.g., palm cards and online resources); and awareness-raising products (e.g., pins, posters, stickers, and postcards). Additionally, the NSVRC has taken an active role in making sexual violence awareness and prevention resources available to the U.S. territories and the healthcare community. More recently, the NSVRC has placed increasing emphasis on the prevention of sexual violence. As a result, its SAAM campaigns have included a greater focus on prevention as well.