BRYAN COUNTY NEWS: Learning more about Sexual Assault Awareness Month


April 5th, 2024 – Sexual assault touches every community within our region, and as April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month across the USA, I want everybody in the Coastal Empire to know that Mary’s Place is here for them to support survivors and prevent future incidents. 

Mary’s Place was formerly known as the Rape Crisis Center but was renamed in 2022 to honor our founder, Mary McAllister and to recognize our wide range of services in advocacy and prevention.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month was first formally recognized in 2001 by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. The campaign was established to promote education and prevention of sexual violence. The first rape crisis center in the US was founded in 1971, and the first Take Back the Night rally was held in 1976. The National Coalition Against Sexual Assault mobilized groups across the country to take action at higher levels in the 1980s. In 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act, the first legislation to require law enforcement to treat domestic violence as a crime. In 2009, President Barack Obama made the first official proclamation that April was Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Since then, SAAM has continued to be recognized with a presidential proclamation every April.

Unlike most leaders of organizations, my dream is for an end to sexual violence and the need for Mary’s Place to exist. Sadly, we are a long way from achieving this ambition in the Coastal Empire. Last year, Mary’s Place handled nearly 500 crisis line calls and undertook 119 Sexual Assault Nurse Examinations. Because sexual assault can also be traumatizing for family, friends and partners of survivors of sexual assault, we helped 76 of these secondary survivors and advocated for 46 survivors who reported their assault. Consider these statistics as highly significant as the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network ( estimate that 2 out of every 3 rapes go unreported and 975 out of every 1,000 perpetrators of sexual assault will not be imprisoned or convicted.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) has centered this year’s month-long initiative around ‘building connected communities’, which our nonprofit has dedicated itself to since its establishment in 1975 as the Rape Crisis Center. Here in the Coastal Empire, Mary’s Place of the Coastal Empire has a number of community events and initiatives as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month:

• Jeans for Justice (month-long initiative in April) – Also known as Denim Day”, began in 1999 as part of an international protest of an Italian Supreme Court decision to overturn a rape conviction because the victim was wearing jeans

• Solidarity Walk (6-8 p.m. Tuesday, Apr. 9, 2024 at Forsyth Park) – This uplifting event offers community members a unique opportunity to join in the effort to end sexual violence, show their support for survivors, and raise awareness of the programs and services offered by Mary’s Place

• “Recharge. Reset. Respond.” A Responders Summit on Sexual Assault (8 a.m. – 2 p.m. Wednesday, Apr. 10, 2024 at Savannah Technical College Eckburg Auditorium) – This free training initiative is designed for a diverse array of professionals https://marysplacega. org/summit-2024/

• “Find Your Voice” Lip Sync Competition (Friday, Apr. 26 at Victory North) The competition returns to Victory North for a second year! This innovative fundraising event will once again offer guests delicious food and cocktails, a silent auction, and a chance to enjoy and vote for the teams competing for the 2024 ‘Find Your Voice’ awards https:// and education are a vital part of our mission and funds raised during April will help to maintain these important programs as well as support survivors of sexual assault. Last year Mary’s Place undertook:

• 714 multi-session personal safety programs were conducted for 14,067 SCCPSS students (K-10th grade).

• 407 college students attended our consent conversations in partnership with Savannah State University.

• 181 middle and high school students attended our healthy relationships conversations.

• 5,840 people received resources from Mary’s Place during outreach events.

Mary’s Place is committed to uniting the Coastal Empire with a common aim of putting an end to sexual violence. We encourage our community to join our mission and participate in this April’s events – whether it be as a supporter, volunteer or sponsor. For more information, please visit

Doris L.Williams is the Executive Director at Mary’s Place of the Coastal Empire, a support center for those affected by rape and sexual assault. For those in need, their 24/7 Crisis Line is (912) 233-7273.

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