Sexual Assault Awareness Week gives voice to silenced

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network's Web site, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted every two minutes. While Geneseo cannot escape the effects of sexual assault, proactive students are making strides toward raising awareness for prevention.

April 26 - 29 marks the third annual Sexual Assault Awareness Week. The steering committee for SAAW, funded by Student Association, involves groups from all facets of campus life. Organizations involved include Womyn's Action Coalition, Pride Alliance, Black Student Union, Latino Student Association, Alpha Chi Ro (Crows), Royal Lady Knights and Voices for Planned Parenthood.

In response to what they consider an unsatisfactory sexual assault policy from the Geneseo administration, disgusted and outraged students have decided to take a stand. A four-hour Students Acting For Ending Rape teach-in on Monday brought to light the existing problems with the policy. According to senior Isobel Connors, the policy is supposed to be updated every year but has not been this year.

"The policy also claims that we have a sexual violence committee, which hasn't existed since 2007," Connors said.

Senior Dani Vanauken said she would like to see changes made to the policy. "As a graduating senior and future alumna, I envision coming back to see goals and set progress made. I would like to see a clear, concise form with sexual assault policies," she said.

Students trying to raise awareness do so for a variety of reasons. As a member of Crows, junior Mark Monroig said he would like to change the stigma that fraternities are a danger-zone.

Monroig said that many issues in society are undertreated because people do not realize the extent to which they are problematic. "[Sexual assault] is a cause that's worthy that ruins so many," he said. "It can be prevented if awareness is raised," he said.

Although junior Amanda Howell has not been personally affected by sexual assault, she has seen many friends endure the pain. "I know a lot of females who have been sexually assaulted. It could have been prevented if people were aware," she said. "It's good to make both men and women aware of sexual assault and what counts as that."

Senior Lindsey Wiltse, a member of WAC, chose to get involved with the club after seeing how many people are truly affected by sexual assault. "It's crazy to see how many people come out of the woodwork and how many people you know personally that have been touched on campus - it's pretty inspiring to get out and do something," she said.

Vanauken also said she is infuriated with the way a rape trial case involving Geneseo students was handled last year. "This girl was told to retell her story again and again," Vanauken said. "She was demoralized and the rapist was acquitted. It's frustrating because when you do report a rape they look for holes in your story," she said.

Other events that have taken place this week include self-defense training and open dialogues. "We have the dialogues as a safe and open space for having conversation in order to take shame away from the victim," Vanauken said. "The way we look at rape culture perpetuates itself in our daily lives."

Wednesday's activities focused on the Clothesline Project and a Soap Box of student contributors. "[The Clothesline Project] is a personal narrative or memoir of a friend to empower. It's a visual for unspoken memories that often go unheard," Vanauken said.

Take Back the Night is the key event of the week and will be held Thursday night, beginning on the College Green at 7 p.m. with a candlelight vigil.

"We walk all through campus with the masses behind us," Vanauken said. "We will reclaim the streets together, for men and women, proving that these stereotypes don't have to be true. Walking alone is not an invitation to be sexually assaulted."