Austin Linthicum / Mustang News

Mayor Heidi Harmon announced April 2017 as Sexual Assault Awareness month in San Luis Obispo during a city council meeting April 4.

April has been nationally recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness month in the U.S. since 2001 to raise awareness about sexual violence and how to prevent it, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC).

“This is an issue that is of concern to everyone, hopefully,” Harmon said. “Especially in a university town where we recognize that campuses definitely struggle with this issue, I would like all parts of the community to know that the city, council and myself are here to support them and hopefully decrease the amount of intimate partner violence that occurs.”

Each year, the NSRVC chooses a national campaign theme for the month of April and provides organizers and participants with resources and tools to plan events locally to support the cause.

This year’s national theme is “Engaging New Voices,” which will focus on involving parents, greek life, coaches, faith leaders and bystanders in preventing sexual assault, according to the NSVRC.

“We really need everybody’s voice and everybody’s participation to stop assault from happening at Cal Poly,” Cal Poly Safer Coordinator Kara Samaniego said. “We need friends to be talking to friends and partners to be talking to each other and holding each other accountable for our actions.”

Local organizations like Safer and RISE will be hosting events throughout the month to engage the community, bring awareness to the issue and educate about prevention.

Safer will be hosting 18 different events over the course of this month, culminating in their biggest event of the year — Take Back The Night. The event will be held on April 27, starting with an on-campus march in the University Union at 11 a.m. followed by a march downtown in Mission Plaza from 5 to 8 p.m. It will also feature a candlelight vigil honoring sexual assault victims, an open mic night, art displays and community resources, Samaniego said.

“Everything about Sexual Assault Awareness month really leads up to that night,” Samaniego said. “Awareness is the first step to really be able to engage and go deeper into whatever form of activism people are comfortable with. That doesn’t always mean being at the front of a protest or being at the front of a march. Activism can be just having a one on one conversation with a close friend.”

RISE will also be hosting it 15th annual event — Walk A Mile in Her Shoes — April 29 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Mission Plaza. The event involves a march around downtown where participants walk in heels and will also include a vendor fair and live music.

“The way to end sexual assault doesn’t only come from the people that work in our office or do this work everyday,” Samaniego said. “It comes from people really caring about one another and being willing to learn and grow and have healthy relationships.”

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