OCO News

OCO’s SAF Program Highlights the Connection Between Oppression and Sexual Violence During Annual Sexual Assault Awareness Month Campaign

April is national Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) and calls attention to the fact that sexual violence is widespread and impacts every person in the community. SAAM aims to raise public awareness about sexual violence and educate communities on how to prevent it. This year’s theme is “Drawing Connections: Prevention Demands Equity” and calls on all individuals, communities, organizations, and institutions to change ourselves and the systems surrounding us to build racial equity and respect.

Sexual assault is a pervasive issue in our communities, but it does not exist in isolation. Systems of oppression such as racism, sexism, classism, ageism, ableism, homophobia, and transphobia contribute to higher rates of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse. Unfortunately, those same groups are also the most impacted by inequitable systems of oppression in our society. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, more than 1 in 4 Black women in the U.S. were raped in their lifetime. 1 in 3 Hispanic women, as well as 33% of adults with intellectual disabilities, have experienced sexual violence. Additionally, 47% of all transgender people have been sexually assaulted at some point in their lives. We recognize that it will take ending all forms of oppression to end sexual violence.

Oswego County Opportunities’ Services to Aid Families (SAF) program is the domestic violence and rape crisis program for Oswego County. In 2022, SAF served 650 victims and survivors and answered more than 4,700 calls on its Crisis Hotline from those individuals. “We can trace a line from sexual violence to systems of oppression,” said SAF Senior Manager of Quality and Education Sara Carmichael. “We need to expand our prevention work to not just reach the people who are most impacted, but to change the larger systems that continue to perpetuate oppression.”

SAF is collaborating with individuals and community partners this April to raise awareness and support victims and survivors. SUNY Oswego and Cayuga Community College’s Fulton Campus will be hosting the “What Were You Wearing” display. This powerful exhibit features stories of sexual violence and representations of what victims were wearing at the time of their assault. “The display challenges victim blaming and proves that clothing has nothing to do with sexual violence,” said Carmichael. “Our hope is people who see this exhibit will understand that victims are not to blame for the abuse or violence that has been perpetrated on them and it is never the victims fault.”

Pictured here at the Marano Campus Center for the “What Were You Wearing” campaign are, (seated above from left) SUNY Oswego Title IX interns Leondra Morgan, Abigal Moore, Kayleigh Sherman, Bridgid Burke, Bryn White, and Gwen Boozer. Standing from left are SAF Senior Advocate Danielle Gillet, Title IX Coordinator at SUNY Oswego Lisa M. Evaneski and SAF Advocate Laura Robinson.

SAF is also partnering with some local schools to create book displays in the high school libraries showcasing books that address sexual assault. Information and resources will also be included in the book displays to help raise awareness. SAF will also recognize

National Denim Day on Wednesday, April 26th. Denim Day is a movement to stand up for survivors and protest victim-blaming and destructive attitudes that promote sexual violence. Individuals are encouraged to participate in Denim Day by posting a picture on social media of themselves or a group wearing jeans using the hashtag #DenimDay. Lastly, community members are invited to check out SAF’s Facebook and Instagram pages for ideas and content to share to help raise awareness.

“We recognize that it will take ending all forms of oppression to end sexual violence,” said Carmichael. This April, during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, SAF will share information to learn how to draw connections between various forms of oppression and the underlying causes of sexual assault. “We’re asking individuals to join us in building equity and respect within our communities, workplaces, and the future our youth hold,” said Carmichael.

If you or someone you know is a victim or survivor of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual violence, and stalking, please call SAF’s Crisis Hotline at (315) 342-1600. The hotline is available 24 hours a day and is free and confidential. SAF is the domestic violence and rape crisis program for Oswego County and has provided crisis, supportive, advocacy and educational services throughout Oswego County for more than 40 years.

OCO, Inc. is a private, non-profit agency that has been supporting communities throughout Oswego County since 1966. OCO helps lift people out of poverty through more than 50 human service programs that serve over 15,000 people each year. For more information, visit www.oco.org.

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