Sexual assault is a widespread problem that often lacks recognition on college campuses, where it is particularly pervasive. Sexual assault is a topic of education that is vital for creating and maintaining safety.
At Geneseo, Women’s Action Coalition works to generate mindfulness on how to help victims and prevent sexual assault from happening through Sexual Assault Awareness Week, taking place this year from Monday April 13 - Saturday April 18. The White House recognizes April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. In light of this, RESTORE Sexual Assault Services Outreach and Education Specialist Lauren Berger came to the Geneseo campus to hold a Sexual Assault Victim’s Disclosure Workshop on Tuesday April 14. A Planned Parenthood program, RESTORE provides a range of sexual assault services to survivors and their loved ones. At the workshop, Berger discussed topics such as the propagation of the stereotypes surrounding sexual assault that hinder empathetic and productive conversations about the issue.
Berger also engaged with students in conversation about education methods for their peers, answering questions and using relatable analogies. She also provided informational handouts and brochures further explaining RESTORE’s objectives, the resources available and how to become involved through volunteering.
“Victim blaming is self-perpetuating because people aren’t trained and survivors know they aren’t trained, so it’s a cycle that needs to be broken,” WAC president sophomore Jes Heppler said. “Having instruction and knowledge of resources is really important for management and prevention.”
The RESTORE event is just one of WAC’s many scheduled events for their annual Sexual Assault Awareness Week. Activities include Safe Zone Training, a documentary screening, a forum on the new SUNY Sexual Assault and Consent Policies, the Take Back the Night March, the Clothesline Project with Leading Men Stand Up and Sister Outsider Slam Poetry. WAC declares a Sexual Assault Awareness Week on campus annually, striving to positively impact and inform the community every year.
Heppler noted that she especially wants to stress the importance of the Take Back the Night March, which aims to express support for sexual assault victims. “It’s a collective effort to help survivors reclaim their bodies, their minds and their autonomy,” she said. “It’s also to make people aware of how prevalent sexual assault is.”
This year after the march, a vigil will be held with anonymous stories. “We received over 20 submissions … it’s a way to give them a voice and make people aware about what they can do as friends or bystanders,” Heppler said.
WAC has been planning this week’s campaign for Sexual Assault Awareness since January, hoping to provide optimal education about the issue and respect for survivors. Through the programs, WAC also strives to increase prevention of sexual assault. The implementation of this annual movement has gained campus-wide attention, attracting a considerable amount of participants.
“It’s really important for people to learn what to do regarding sexual assault,” Heppler said. “Victim-blaming attitudes like, ‘She was asking for it,’ are so prevalent and people need to know about such myths in order to best respond if a friend comes forward about being sexually assaulted.”