When you Google a list of commemorative months, a range of options will appear: February as Black History Month, March as Women’s History Month and October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, among others. In addition to these recognizable titles, you may find out that January is Stalking Awareness Month and July is National Ice Cream Month.
Since the majority of us do not scroll through the list and mark our calendars, most of these awareness campaigns will go unnoticed. Although we may be able to let July pass without celebrating the advent of ice cream, some of the lesser-known awareness months deserve more attention.
In particular, the arrival of April calls our attention toward Sexual Assault Awareness. Often viewed through a distorted lens, sexual assault survivors face a significant amount of misunderstanding and stigmatization that leaves them feeling isolated. Forced into a position of silence, survivors become victims of shame once more due to the cultural taboo surrounding their experience.
Rather than continuing this cycle of shame and silence, the international nonprofit organization Red My Lips calls for awareness and activism. The organization seeks to provide a voice to sexual assault survivors by engaging their supporters, which they proudly call Warriors, in a month long campaign.
Throughout April, Red My Lips asks Warriors to wear red lipstick in order to raise awareness about sexual violence and speak out against victim-blaming. The campaign’s motto, “This is not about vanity. It’s about visibility,” indicates an effort to give a voice to the otherwise potentially voiceless survivors of sexual assault.
Rather than continuously placing blame on the victim’s clothing, intoxication or appearance, it is imperative to erase these misconceptions.
The third annual Red My Lips campaign uses red lipstick as a weapon to combat these rape myths and correctly assign blame to rapists. Supporters combine red lips and personal sentiments as their profile pictures with links to the event Facebook page and general website.
Further, the campaign seeks to demonstrate solidarity and support for all survivors, regardless of gender or sexual identity. Red My Lips accentuates the idea that sexual violence is not solely a women’s issue, but “a human issue”—one that affects all of us. Although Warriors are asked to wear red lipstick, the campaign is not meant to stereotype women nor is participation limited to just women.
In order to make the campaign relatable to both genders, a list of alternative signs of participation are offered. Supporters are encouraged to print the Red My Lips logo and adhere it to their car windshield, a gender-neutral gesture.
Ultimately, the most important element of demonstration is employing the symbolic red color to incite dialogue about sexual violence. This last component of the campaign resonates with recent efforts at Boston College to increase open conversation on campus about sexual assault.
Unfortunately, BC students are not exempt from the occurrence of sexual violence and its traumatic effects. Rather than burying this issue to the point of invisibility, BC students must continue the trend of actively engaging in informed dialogue.
Embracing a movement such as the one initiated by Red My Lips can create a climate on BC’s campus that allows all students to feel comfortable, unashamed, and supported in confronting their past. This campaign does not have to end at the conclusion of April, but rather should serve as a springboard for further support on campuses across the nation.
BC’s efforts to raise awareness about sexual assault have transcended previous limits imposed by cultural taboos. These strides have culminated in mandatory awareness programs such as Bystander Intervention as well as supplementary initiatives such as BC CARE Week.
Riding the same tide as these efforts, the Red My Lips campaign raises awareness regarding sexual violence and the stigma it incurs for its targets. Throughout the month of April, continue to embrace this important movement by proudly applying a fresh coat of red lipstick or donning a red t-shirt.