Across the country, the month of April is recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) with the goal of raising the public awareness of sexual violence. This is accomplished by educating communities and individuals on how they can change their culture to prevent the future occurrence of sexual violence. This year, President Barack Obama gave a proclamation to, “renew our stand against a crime that affronts our basic decency and humanity”.
This month, the YWCA Bergen County is collaborating with college campuses, local businesses, and other victim services to support the work of our healingSPACE Program and highlight the issue of sexual violence as a violation of human rights and social justice. Events held within this month include The Art of Healing on April 2nd at Ramapo College, Denim Day will be observed at all three Panico Salon and Spas locations on Thursday, April 24th and the YWCA Bergen County on Monday, April 28th, and United Water will be hosting the first traveling Clothesline Project.
The concept of the Clothesline Project is simple: survivors of sexual assault create shirts to be displayed on a line, expressing themselves using words or artwork. This display acts as an educational tool for viewers as well as a healing vehicle for the creator; letting those who are still suffering know that they are not alone. Clothesline Project events are now held in almost every state in the U.S. as well as in countries across the globe. HealingSPACE has held the Bergen County Clothesline Project for over 20 years, using more than 1,800 t-shirts to create this moving and powerful display. Through this project, we continue to honor survivors; their courage to heal, to break the silence of sexual violence, domestic violence, and murder, and to bear witness to the journey many embark after victimization occurs. Read more information on the history of the national Clothesline Project at Clothesline Project.org.
Denim Day was brought to New Jersey in 2007, by the YWCA Bergen County, to support healingSPACE’s mission to heighten the public’s awareness on sexual consent. Originating in the early 90’s by a few female activists, the Denim Day movement takes a stand on the belief that there is never a reason or an excuse for sexual assault. The observance of Denim Day supports the protest of an overturned rape conviction, by the Italian Supreme Court, of a young girl’s sexual assault by her driving instructor. This court decision was made by reason that the young girl was wearing tight jeans and thus must have helped her rapist remove her jeans, thereby implying consent.
On Thursday, April 24th, the YWCA Bergen County and Panico Salon & Spa will be partnering to raise awareness by hosting a Denim Day fundraising event to support healingSPACE. The salon will be collecting donations from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at their three New Jersey locations: 144 East Ridgewood Ave. in Ridgewood, 393 Kinderkamack Road in Oradell, and 763 Bloomfield Ave. in West Caldwell. Panico will be providing complimentary food, denim day displays, and other informational materials.
On Monday, April 28th, staff and supporters of YWCA Bergen County will be observing Denim Day in NJ by wearing denim and raising awareness of sexual violence. One way for companies and organizations to get involved in Denim Day is through the Dollar$ for Denim campaign, offering the opportunity to wear jeans to work in exchange for making a small contribution to support the ongoing work of healingSPACE. To include your company or organization in Dollar$ for Denim, please download our Denim Day Toolkit.
To fully participate in SAAM, it is important to understand sexual violence itself. Sexual violence has existed for centuries in many different forms. It is the sexual assault of a woman after a first date, the trafficking of women and girls for sex, a 15 year old having a sexual relationship with their coach, or a sexually explicit picture being passed around without the subjects permission. Sexual violence does not discriminate and can happen to anyone regardless of age, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, or economic status. Here are just some of the current statistics on sexual violence:
1 in 4 girls will experience sexual violence by the time they turn 18.
1 in 6 boys will experience sexual violence by the time they turn 18.
1 in 4 women will experience sexual violence in their lifetime.
1 in 31 men will experience sexual violence in their lifetime.
Since the early 1970’s, healingSPACE has been providing support to anyone impacted by sexual violence, and in the mid 70’s, it became a program of the YWCA Bergen County. Formerly Women against Rape and The Bergen County Rape Crisis Center, healingSPACE’s name has evolved to be more inclusive of the both survivors and members of the community connected to the experience of sexual violence. These changes also parallel the progress made to combat all against all forms of sexual violence. No matter the name, the goal remains the same – eradicate sexual violence and create a world where all are safe and without the fear of violence.
healingSPACE provides a confidential 24/7 hotline to survivors, their families and friends, or anyone with concerns about any form of sexual violence. Support is available to those who have experienced any type of sexual violence, whether recently or years ago. Confidential Sexual Violence Advocates are available to provide short term crisis intervention counseling, information, referrals and accompaniments to medical and legal proceedings. In addition, the center provides long-term individual, group, or family counseling for survivors and their loved ones. Both our women’s group and men’s group are free of charge and our long-term counseling is offered at a small fee for individuals age 13 and older.
In Bergen County, healingSPACE is the only program of its kind. You can help support this local resource by becoming a volunteer, inviting healingSPACE to speak at your business or organization, and donating to our vital program. Believing and supporting the survivors of sexual violence and their families is crucial in the advocacy and observance of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. For further information, please visit to our healingSPACE page or contact us at 201-881-1750. YWCA Bergen County’s HealingSPACE crisis intervention hotline provides free and confidential assistance 24/7 at 201-487-2227.
Written as a collaboration by
YWCA Bergen County’s