The Color of Sexual Violence

Trigger warning: abuse, rape, sexual violence, assault.

The color of my best coffee mug is teal.
The color of that one shirt I’ve owned since 16 is teal.
The weird wind chime my mother picked up at last year’s flea market is teal.
The color of sexual assault awareness is teal.

In the United States, April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), and the color used to bring awareness to this social issue is teal. This color represents the endless hours of advocacy, treatment, prevention, education, and legal pursuits against this social epidemic in our society. I say social epidemic, and research shows that: one in four female children, one in six adult women, one in six male children, and one in thirty-three adult men have experienced some form of sexual violence. Half of the LGBT population will fall victim to this social issue. Despite the #MeToo movement and the fact that sexual violence has decreased by more than half since 1993, it is still under reported by nearly 68 percent.

Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted and that teal color gets a little deeper, a little stronger.

But, the color of sexual violence itself? It doesn’t have one; it’s not that simple.

Sexual violence, assault, rape, harassment, abuse? They don’t care what colors you wear. They don’t care what classes you’ve taken, career you’ve chosen, branch of the military you serve, neighborhood you grew up in, incarcerated or not. It doesn’t care your age, race, sexuality, gender identity, nationalist, or relationship status. While it’s true that certain populations are more at risk than others, sexual violence can and certainly does affect each of our lives regardless of the colors that fill them.

Sexual violence is made up of all colors; just ask the victims and survivors. Red is for the blood and anger, pink for the embarrassment, and shades of purple for the bruises. Blue for the tears, green is rolling disgust, and yellow was something too sudden, unexpected, or secret to tell. Orange is for the heat felt, the confusion. White feels like what was lost. Black is for the darkness felt and fallen into. Brown is the dirt, and grey is falling even deeper.

You haven’t felt the colors of sexual violence? Maybe a family member has. A friend, a lover, a coworker, your kid’s babysitter or neighbor’s son. Someone has. Regardless of how personally connected or disconnected you feel towards the social issue of sexual violence, it is pervasive and it has the ability to affect our society in ways that we can’t let it.

And if you, survivor, feel teal? I do too, as do millions and millions of others. Teal feels like the emotional healing to be done, the protection of trust and confidentiality, the uniqueness of the situation, and the worthiness of good things.

The colors matter, but the fight against sexual violence has teal survivors, warriors, advocates and activists. Too bright to be forgotten. Too uplifting to be ignored.

To further the fight against sexual violence, check out these following nonprofits or this directory:

National Alliance to End Sexual Violence
Pittsburgh Action Against Rape
End Rape On Campus
The Consensual Project
Know Your IX
The Grateful Garment Project
The Anti-Violence Project

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