Sexual Assault Awareness week supports victims, encourages discourse

The week of April 22 marked Geneseo’s sixth annual Sexual Assault Awareness Week and included several campus-wide events meant to educate students about sexual assault. The week of events was organized and hosted by Womyn’s Action Coalition. Events will continue though Friday April 26.

According to WAC Secretary junior Emily Popky, the week is designed to “raise awareness on campus that sexual assault is a problem at Geneseo as well as a problem everywhere.”

“Awareness is the first step to reduce sexual assault,” Popky added.

The week began with the Take Back the Night walk on Monday April 22. According to President Christopher Dahl, this international event has been held at Geneseo for approximately 20 years.

About 200 students and faculty gathered at South Quad for the walk, holding signs and chanting support for victims of sexual assault. According to Popky, the attendance this year surged compared to the 20 or so people who attended last year.

“I think it’s a very important event because this is one of the places where we really support the survivors of sexual assault,” Dahl said. “I think it’s very important to create a campus climate where people are not afraid to speak out and not afraid when they have been assaulted to report and to seek the kind of support they need. I think this is fundamental to who we are as a campus.”

On Tuesday April 23, WAC showed the documentary The Invisible War, which focuses on raising awareness about sexual assault in the U.S. military. According to the film’s website, “Today a woman serving in Iraq or Afghanistan is more likely to be raped by a fellow service member than to be killed in the line of fire.”

On Wednesday April 24, patrons at Starbucks saw a display of words of encouragement for survivors, victims and their families on a clothesline strung across the stage. Those interested were also welcomed to the stage to share their views and messages regarding sexual assault awareness as part of the Day of Expression.

According to WAC President junior Rena Pazienza, each different colored cloth has a different meaning.  

“White represents anyone who has died from violence, yellow anyone who has been assaulted or battered, red for survivors of rape or sexual assault, blue for survivors of incest or sexual abuse, purple for anyone attacked for their gender, identity or sexuality and black is for anyone attacked for political reasons,” she said.

“It’s really all about awareness and showing our support for survivors,” Pazienza added. “We need to acknowledge that it is a problem before we can find a solution.”

Students who attended the event emphasized the importance of sexual assault awareness on campus.

“I think it’s really important for women to feel safe on this campus, especially since the statistics show how many people sexual assault actually affects,” sophomore Jessica Kroenert said. “I think it will have the impact of educating a lot of people.”

“I think it’s very important for us to bring this issue out in the open and really advocate for victims of sexual assault and advocate for sexual assault awareness programs that will bring this issue out from the dark and into the open,” said senior Sam White.

On Thursday April 25, Geneseo will host speakers Sarah Kellar and Jeff Pier from Livingston County Rape Crisis. The week will end with trivia and prizes in the College Union on Friday April 26.