Every April, organizations, educational institutions, groups and communities support national Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) through different activities to raise awareness and prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment. Coordinated by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), SAAM 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of the annual campaign. This year’s theme is “We Can Build Safe Online Spaces.”
The White House also proclaimed April as National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, noting that sexual assault affects people of every age, race, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, socioeconomic background, and religion.
Stopping sexual harassment and abuse, the NSVRC says, involves making changes to “our community, workplace or school cultures,” and understanding the role of individuals to “stand up to problematic behaviors and policies.” The NSVRC encourages organizations and individuals to commemorate SAAM and show support for survivors of sexual harassment and abuse by hosting online events and wearing teal — the color of sexual violence prevention — on April 6 and posting a selfie to Twitter or Instagram using #SAAM2021.
The annual spotlight on this critical issue provides HR leaders and teams another opportunity to foster conversations, reinforce anti-harassment policies and promote the tools, resources and support available to raise awareness and prevent sexual misconduct. This includes:
Sexual harassment training
Sexual harassment prevention training is now a requirement for employers in a growing number of states, including New York/New York City, California, Illinois, Connecticut, Maine, Delaware and certain industries in Washington State. Online training that’s modern, relevant to the workforce and promotes positive behaviors and work culture sends a strong message that the organization is serious about preventing sexual harassment and other misconduct.
Among other training topics that address different aspects of harassment are bystander intervention, avoiding retaliation, diversity, equity and inclusion, unconscious bias and microaggressions. For educational institutions, providing Title IX training helps ensure that students, faculty, staff and employees understand their Title IX rights and responsibilities to address, report and prevent sexual misconduct, on and off campus.
A written anti-harassment policy should clearly communicate that all forms of sexual harassment are unacceptable, clarify what is and isn’t acceptable behavior, and explain what measures will be taken for misconduct.
Organizations should encourage and make it easy for individuals to speak up and report incidents of harassment and other misconduct. This includes providing different internal channels such as a complaint hotline, dedicated email or designated representative. Organizations should also reassure individuals that they are legally protected from retaliation when they make a good-faith report or participate in an investigation.
2021 marks the 20th anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Whether people are working or learning online or in-person, #SAAM2021 is an opportunity to engage individuals and teams in ongoing activities and conversations about their role in preventing sexual harassment, assault and misconduct, and the tools and resources available to keep prevention top of mind throughout the year.
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