Sexual Assault Awareness Month at Southeast
April was Sexual Assault Awareness Month and served as a campaign to raise public awareness about sexual violence and educate communities on how to prevent it.
Southeast’s Campus Violence and Prevention Program (CVPP) put on a variety of events to bring awareness.
CVPP held an art installation at Catapult Creative House called, “What Were You Wearing?” This installation was an opportunity for survivors to display the clothing items they wore prior to their sexual assault. This event started on April 5 and continued until Thursday, April 25.
April 24 was Denim Day, which was a day for everyone to wear denim to bring awareness to sexual assault and support survivors.
Coordinator of CVPP Donna St. Sauver said Denim Day was a case in the Italian parliament where a young teenage woman was raped by her 45-year-old driving instructor. He was convicted and appealed because the Italian court judge suggested that because the victim was wearing tight blue jeans she must have helped him take them off. Therefore, consenting to having sexual relations with him.
“We know that's victim blaming and that's rape culture and so we we support that cause because we still have victim blaming going on,” St. Sauver said. “That's the whole purpose behind “What Were You Wearing?” because that question is still asked to victims, when nothing that we wear invites a rapist to rape you.”
There was a traditional campus photo taken at noon that day and everyone was welcomed to join. There was also a tabling from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to help educate everyone on what Denim Day was about.
SEMO Rising was held Thursday, April 25, which is annual event held in support of survivors. It was held in the Academic Terraces. This event also had a survivor ‘speak-out’ which was an opportunity for survivors or anyone else to come to the microphone and give expression to their experience.
“We've had folks sing, dance — we've had poetry, we've had friends of survivors come and offer up an expression of support,” St. Sauver said.
She said they don’t identify perpetrators or bash on them but they use this time to talk candidly about sexual violence, and the repercussions it has for those who have survived it.
“A lot of stuff that the general population just really isn't thinking about right, until they know someone who's open about it happening to them,” St. Sauver said.
St. Sauver said once the speak out ends there will be a candlelight vigil held for those who lost their lives to sexual assault. There will be a Break the Chain dance as well.
“It's a global movement called ‘1 Billion Rising’ and created by Eve Ensler to raise awareness around the globe about violence against women," St. Sauver said. "So this break the chain dance is fun and similar to a line dance.”
Some other events CVPP has done this past month included Redhawks Rising members presenting at Meeting of the Minds in Kansas City on April 6. It is a regional conference for professionals in higher education, counseling, substance use and law enforcement to all gather and talk about campus safety and well-being. They presented on how to make a safe place on campus for survivors.
St. Sauver said there was STD testing at the River Campus this month where they focused on consent in sexual health.
“That's something that we did every full month, this semester," St. Sauver said. " So in February, March and April, we have free testing at various locations around campus, in collaboration with the Redhawk Health Educators, because healthy sexuality is such an important part of sexual violence prevention.”
There was also a panel discussion held by a student artist on April 10 at Catapult. Kendra Aides from Someone Asked Me came and sat on the panel as well as undergraduate students.
St. Sauver said there is sexual assault on every college campus and it’s a worldwide issue so prevention efforts should be continued. She said educating people is one of the most important components when it comes to address the issue of sexual assault.
“Providing survivors with a safe place to get help confidentially if they choose, advocating for them, if they choose to go report either to the university or to the police is an important component of that trauma informed response,” St. Sauver said.
St. Sauver said about 80% of sexual assault cases involve alcohol and about 80% of our students record they've tried alcohol in the last year. She also said alcohol is the number one date rape drug.
“Hollywood would have us believe that it's ruffies, but alcohol is widely used. It's socially acceptable, and absolutely available on college campus,” St. Sauver said.
She said bystander intervention is an important part of keeping students safe, as well as teaching students to look out for one another.
“It's not about busting up into someone else's business,” St. Sauver said. “It's about looking around you and noticing what's going on, and having the courage to take personal responsibility to step up and say that's not okay, he or she is wasted, you can't take them home.”
She said some research says between six and 10% of the male population rape and some perpetrators offend as many as an average of nine or 10 times.
Men as well as women are sexually assaulted, one in 16 college men are sexually assaulted during their time at college, St. Sauver said.
“So if you're a male and you come to college, you're twice as likely to be sexually assaulted,” St. Sauver said.