In the landscape of social change, the advocacy for sexual assault awareness stands as a testament to the power of grassroots movements, legal reform, and the collective strength of survivors and allies. Tracing its roots back to the early 1970s, the history of sexual violence advocacy is marked by significant milestones, from the establishment of rape crisis centers to the global #MeToo movement and beyond.


The First Rape Crisis Center

History of Sexual Assault Awareness Month | National Sexual Violence  Resource Center (NSVRC)

The seeds of this movement were planted in 1971 with the opening of the first rape crisis center in the United States. These centers, founded by activists and survivors, became pivotal hubs for providing support services and advocating for survivors locally. Their efforts laid the foundation for a nationwide network of rape crisis centers, which emerged in the 1970s and 1980s, championing the rights and needs of survivors.


Rape Shield Laws

Press Release: The Boston Area Rape Crisis Center Marks Its 45th  Anniversary | BARCC

The 1970s and 1980s saw crucial legal changes, including the passage of “rape shield” laws in 1975, which protected survivors from having their sexual history used against them in court. These legislative victories were instrumental in shifting societal attitudes and challenging the stigma surrounding sexual assault.


The Violence Against Women Act

How We Got Here: A History of Sexual Assault Awareness Month | National  Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC)

In the 1990s, the momentum continued to build with the establishment of the Office of Crime Victims Advocacy in Washington state and the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994. These initiatives provided much-needed funding and resources for sexual assault services and prevention efforts, ushering in a new era of support for survivors.


Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Obama signs five bills, but complains Congress hasn't sent him more

One of the defining moments in the history of sexual violence advocacy came in April 2001 when Sexual Assault Awareness Month was officially observed nationally for the first time. Coordinated by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), this annual campaign has since become a platform for raising awareness, promoting prevention, and supporting survivors.

In 2009, President Barack Obama made history by proclaiming April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, signaling a significant milestone in the recognition of this issue at the highest levels of government.



The #MeToo Movement and its Impact on Employment Law — The WS Society

The landscape of advocacy shifted once again in 2017 with the emergence of the #MeToo movement. Sparked by actress Alyssa Milano’s viral tweet, #MeToo became a powerful rallying cry, bringing attention to the pervasive nature of sexual assault and harassment across various industries. The movement inspired legislative reforms, corporate policy changes, and a cultural reckoning with issues of power, consent, and accountability.

The following year, the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford during Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing brought renewed focus to the experiences of survivors and the importance of believing their stories. Dr. Ford’s courageous testimony sparked national conversations about trauma, memory, and the need for systemic change.


Survivor Bill of Rights & Beyond

We changed the world': UN passes resolution recognising survivors of sexual  violence

In recent years, organizations like Rise have been at the forefront of advocacy efforts, championing survivor rights and pushing for legislative reform. Their groundbreaking work, including the passage of the Survivor Bill of Rights and the landmark UN Resolution, has paved the way for greater protections and accountability for survivors of sexual violence worldwide.

As we reflect on the history of sexual violence advocacy, it is clear that progress has been made, but there is still much work to be done. By standing together, raising our voices, and demanding change, we can create a world where survivors are believed, supported, and empowered to seek justice. Join us in the fight for accountability and justice by signing the petition at


Together, we can make a difference.


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