Every year in April, Peace Corps Vanuatu joins the other Peace Corps countries around the world including the United States (U.S.) to raise awareness on the topic of Sexual Assault.

The goal of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) is for individuals and organisations to raise public awareness about sexual harassment, assault, and abuse and educate communities on how to prevent them.

April 2024 marks the official 23rd Anniversary of SAAM. The theme of SAAM 2024 is “Building Connected Communities”. “Building Connected Communities helps us reduce the likelihood of sexual abuse, assault, and harassment in our communities,” Peace Corps Vanuatu stated. “Any space where people come together is a community, whether in neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, organisations, or even online spaces. We are all a part of a community, often many, even when we may feel disconnected or apart from them.

“Community is powerful. Community creates a sense of belonging and reminds us of how our beliefs, choices, and actions impact one another. At the centre of Building Connected Communities is ensuring our communities are safe, inclusive, and equitable. We must address all abuses of power to prevent sexual violence — in our relationships, communities, and society.”

What does it take to Build Connected Communities?

Addressing the social and structural determinants of health, such as education, income, employment, community safety, and social support, is crucial to improving the conditions, in which we live, learn, work, and play.

“In a connected community, we can look out for one another and make choices to promote health, safety, and well-being,” Peace Corps Vanuatu continued. “Building Connected Communities brings us closer to the goal of health equity.

wwHealth equity means that everyone, no matter their situation, has a chance to achieve their best possible health, creating a fair and just opportunity for all to reach their highest level of well-being.

“We recognise that how we talk about sexual violence significantly impacts survivors, their families, our communities, and society. We also understand that our voices have power and that when one of us does not feel safe or respected we are all affected. As such, we must strive to create strong, connected communities that take care of one another and make decisions to ensure the safety and well-being of others to end sexual violence.”

Sexual violence is an umbrella term that includes any type of unwanted sexual contact — including sexual assault, harassment, and abuse. It represents a range of behaviors. Forms of sexual violence include: rape or sexual assault; sexual harassment; sexual abuse; unwanted sexual contact or touching; sexual exploitation and trafficking; exposing one’s genitals or naked body to others without consent; nonconsensual image sharing; words and actions of a sexual nature against a person’s will and without their consent.

Awareness and Action during Sexual Assault Awareness Month

“This April, during SAAM, learn how to take steps to build connected communities and enhance your knowledge of sexual assault, harassment, and abuse. In addition, we invite you to explore how to create safe communities where everyone feels safe and supported,” Peace Corps Vanuatu concluded