Educating students and supporting survivors with Sexual Assault Awareness Month

By Jacquelyn Voghel

As movements such as #MeToo and Time’s Up have caught fire across the nation, members of the campus community aim to continue the conversation surrounding sexual assault both at RWU and throughout Rhode Island.

Each April, the university joins nationwide efforts to end sexual assault and support survivors through its observance of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month is coordinated annually by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, which first organized the observance in April 2001.

For this year’s observance, an anonymous donor contributed funds allowing the creation of a Public Service Announcement competition centered around sexual assault awareness. Through participation in the competition, teams of students can win up to $1,500 dollars by creating a short, educational “PSA” video.

“By opening a PSA competition to the whole school, we hope more students learn about and share the resources for survivors while creating a dialogue of empowerment about a subject that can be hard to approach,” said RWU Corporate and Foundation Relations Officer Sarah Reusche, an organizer for the competition.

Submissions for the PSA contest will close on April 12, after which all submissions will be screened in GHH on April 17 and a winner will be announced.

Throughout the month, various campus groups will also host events aimed at combating sexual assault: on April 3-4, the Women’s Collective will hold “Flowers to Empower”; a Green Dot Bystander Intervention Workshop will be offered on April 18; and the Title IX Office and Women’s Collective will host the annual “Walk A Mile in Her Shoes” march and vigil on April 25.

Off-campus, the Rhode Island Student Collaborative will also observe a “Day of Accountability” at the State House lawn on April 28.

Prior to the start of April, the university’s year-long “Talking About Race, Gender and Power” series has touched upon issues of sexual assault, attracting speakers such as Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo Movement, in February, as well as attorneys Tina Tchen and Adrienne Lawrence in March.

Jen Stanley, Title IX coordinator and associate dean & director of the Gender & Sexuality Center, said that she hopes that April’s month-long programming will ultimately “continue to move the campus culture in a direction that does not foster or condone power-based personal violence.”

“We want every student to be aware of the myriad resources available, on campus and off, [for] survivors of assault,” Reusche added. “If you aren’t a survivor, you know a survivor, and we want every student to be empowered to find resources, direct a friend to resources, or kindly lend an ear to anyone who is ready to tell their story.”