By Jalyn Bolyard, Online Editor
It’s time once again to advocate as it is officially Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). Throughout the month of April, many events surrounding education and awareness of sexual assault will be held on campus.
This issue is important to highlight because college-aged women, 18-24, having a higher risk of encountering sexual violence, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN). Out of all undergraduate students, according to RAINN, 23.1 percent of females “experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.”
Not just females are affected, however. According to the same report, male college-aged students are 78 percent more likely than non-students to be a rape or sexual assault victim.
“We want to take the stigma away of being afraid to talk about [sexual assault],” said Kate Billings, Campus Activities Director and Title IX Coordinator. “I want people to be able to come into my office, and even if they don’t want to talk to me, that’s fine, but let me send you an email with on and off campus resources. So that even if you don’t want to disclose, or you’re not at that point, or if a friend is in a situation and you’re concerned, we can hopefully provide professional help.”
Throughout the month, students are encouraged to sign the “It’s On Us” pledge.
Today, April 12, there will be two events for SAAM. There is “Take a Stand with Panhellenic” which will be in the Union Ballroom from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. The other is hosted by the Wheeling YWCA, “Let’s talk about sex – Sexual Assault and Dating Violence” at 12 p.m. in the Chapel Social Room. Both events encourage students to come learn and talk about sexual assault in a comfortable environment.
There will also be a clothing and consent table in the Union Ballroom on Monday, April 16 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. “Sometimes we forget that we may make some comments, maybe not even knowing so, about people’s clothing and appearance, and [this event] is trying to break down that specific stigma,” said Billings.
On Tuesday, April 17, students will have the opportunity to have coffee and sit and talk with some of WLU’s police officers. According to Billings, this simple activity can help students feel more comfortable with the police officers on campus if they don’t know them yet, which can help students have confidence in reporting incidents.
There will also be a showing of the documentary “Audrie and Daisy,” which showcases how sexual assault affected two college-aged girls and others. It will be presented by the Ohio Valley Sexual Assault Help Center (OVSAHC) in College Hall on April 18 at 5 p.m.
Science honorary Chi Beta Phi will also be holding a fundraiser for YWCA. “Sexual assault and domestic violence is still a problem in our society, making it important to support an organization like the YWCA to allow them to continue offering shelter for women who have been victims of domestic violence. Helping the community is important to our honorary and we would like to donate to the YWCA again this year,” said Elliot Collins, Chi Beta Phi President. If interested in helping out or donating, please email Collins at [email protected]
Other events will also be on campus, including self-defense classes every Thursday at noon in the wrestling room. There will be plenty of opportunities for students to seek out and learn more about SAAM.
Students are also encouraged throughout the month to share posts on social media with the hashtags #ItsOnUsWLU and #NotMyCampusWLU to show solidarity.
Organizations helping out with this month’s activities include Campus Police, Panhellenic Council, Lambda Psi Sigma, YWCA and OVSAHC.
To learn more about sexual assault or Title IX, feel free to contact Billings at [email protected] Billings said, “We want people to know there is someone here on this campus who will look into their issue in good faith and try and come to a resolution or find the right resources for that person.”
Photo Credit: Jalyn Bolyard