In a significant stride toward bolstering sexual assault awareness and prevention, Respect Together, an esteemed national anti-violence organization nestled in central Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, is poised to commemorate the 23rd annual Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) with a robust day of events on April 10th. This year’s campaign, under the banner “Building Connected Communities,” accents the pivotal role that inclusive, equitable, and connected communities play in forestalling sexual abuse, assault, and harassment.

The series of events is set to commence on the evening of April 9th with the symbolic lighting of the PA State Capitol Building in teal, the emblematic color for sexual violence prevention. This visual proclamation serves not only as a beacon of hope and support for survivors but also as a clarion call to action for the broader community.

April 10th will witness a pivotal Advocacy Day spearheaded by Respect Together’s state division, the Pennsylvania Coalition to Advance Respect (PCAR). Advocates from across the Commonwealth will converge to imbue state legislatures and leaders with firsthand narratives from survivors and staff of sexual assault service providers. This comes amid grave concerns over the stagnant state funding for rape crisis centers and cuts to the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding, underscoring a critical juncture for advocacy.

In a gesture of openness and community engagement, Respect Together will subsequently host an informal meet-and-greet at its Riverfront Office, presenting a unique opportunity for locals and visitors alike to familiarize themselves with the organization’s work. The facility at 2101 North Front Street not only embodies the organization’s heartbeat but also houses the world’s largest specialized collection of resources on sexual violence. This event promises an insightful foray into past SAAM campaign materials and the organization’s foundational work.

Yolanda Edrington, CEO of Respect Together, conveyed the sentiment that the theme “Building Connected Communities” aptly catalyzed the initiative to demystify the organization’s operations and reinforce community ties. Edrington’s words echo the organization’s ambition to transcend being one of Harrisburg’s best-kept secrets to becoming a beacon of resource and expertise in the combat against sexual abuse and harassment not just locally but globally.

The day is slated to culminate with an exclusive reception at Historic King Mansion, not just to honor SAAM but also to celebrate the tireless contributions of Respect Together’s staff over decades. This occasion also doubles as the official welcome for Yolanda Edrington, who assumed the mantle of CEO in January, marking a new chapter in the organization’s story since rebranding from the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape the previous August.

Respect Together, through its diverse initiatives – from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) to the Pennsylvania Coalition to Advance Respect (PCAR) – strives to disrupt inequality, empower service providers, animate communities, and steer leaders towards fostering safe and respectful environs for all. This year’s campaign casts a spotlight on the indispensable synergy between awareness, advocacy, and community engagement in the path to eradicating sexual violence. The sequence of events planned for April 10th not only reinstate this momentum but also open avenues for deeper community interaction and support, setting a poignant precedent for SAAM observances and beyond.