Five Ways You Can Support Survivors During Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Originally published on Change.Org on April 15, 2017 By A.J. Walton and Joshunda Sanders.

Eighteen-year-old Grace Watkins didn’t think she’d be subjected to further pain and humiliation soon after she was raped by a Notre Dame athlete while his friends filmed the violent attack.

But that’s exactly what happened when she found herself at a nearby hospital, one without a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner on staff, and where — cut up and with tissue damage — she was told by nurses that her rape wasn’t really a rape. To add insult to injury, hospital officials informed Grace she’d have to pay thousands of dollars for her rape kit, something she could not afford and a violation of Indiana law.

“I came to understand that this is what it feels like to have your rights denied,” Grace wrote. “Injustice is not just bad rules, it is a collection of deeply painful lived experiences.”

Grace is one of dozens of survivors with the #RiseUp movement — which has utilized almost of all of the tools for social change on our platform — who has started a petition. It is also the story of 25 million Americans — including actress Abigail Breslin, who came forward last week to commemorate Sexual Assault Awareness Month and break her silence — and many more sexual assault survivors around the world.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month has its roots in a movement that is more than 40 years old. It began with Take Back the Night marches in England that spread to San Francisco and New York in the 1970s. It has since evolved into a month-long commemoration of how much progress has been made interrogating rape culture globally and how much is left to be done.

Here are five petitions and movements you can sign, join and promote in April at to support the brave survivors of sexual assault who continue to advocate for themselves and others around the world:

+Support more than 400,000 citizens, including Grace, who are part of the movement to support Common Sense Rape Survivor Rights

+Ahead of the French election, call on officials to make candidates who have committed sexual assault ineligible for office

+Tell Twitter to shut down accounts that Tweet rape threats at women in the U.S. and in India #RapeThreatsNotOK

+Join 26,000 people who want to save the Violence Against Women Act, which provides critical support for survivors, from budget cuts

Although Grace’s life was changed forever like that of millions of sexual assault survivors, in her words, “I continue to fight because I can’t abandon these problems now that I know they are there.” This month and every month, remains an open platform for those of us who continue to work end injustice wherever and whenever we can.

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