Members of the USF community are striving to put an end to the stigma of silence on sexual assault. This month, the Cultural Centers, which includes the Intercultural Center and the Gender and Sexuality Center, along with a number of other offices in Student Life, have taken great strides to increase sexual assault awareness.
In 2001, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center established April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) with the goal of raising public awareness about sexual violence, educating communities on how to prevent it and supporting victim survivors of sexual assault.
Although sexual assault awareness is a topic that USF strives to keep its students informed about, there is a much larger emphasis on it this month. “At USF, the Gender and Sexuality Center, along with a number of other offices in Student Life, and in collaboration with faculty members, provides education and support through a variety of programs in both the fall and the spring semesters, with a special focus in April,” said Erin Echols, one of the new co-directors of the Cultural Centers.
The Gender and Sexuality Center took the lead by organizing a committee that would host the events that have and will continue to take place during the month of April in regards to establishing a more informed campus on sexual assault. “The committee chose a variety of programs under a ‘Braver Campus’ theme,” said Echols.
Throughout April, different USF organizations have either organized or showed support for different events regarding the awareness of sexual assault. So far, student clubs have collaborated with the XYZ Fraternity in events such as the Kick Off Event that took place on April 1st. In addition, a team of USF students and faculty showed support for the documentary The Hunting Ground, a film about rape on college campuses in the United States, by attending the viewing of this film at the recent USF Human Rights Film Festival.
One of the more powerful events took place on Apr. 16 during an event called “Take Back the Night: A Community Gathering.” Take Back the Night (TBTN) began in the late 1960s across the United States after spreading from Europe, with the purpose of creating both safe communities and relationships through awareness events and initiatives. TBTN encourages people to end the silence and violence of sexual assault.
TBTN was an empowering opportunity for survivors, their supporters, and the campus community of USF to come together in Gleeson Plaza to not only speak about their own stories regarding sexual assault, but to also raise awareness for sexual violence, and give support to survivors in their healing process. “Take Back the Night was such an empowering and emotional event that allowed students to express themselves in a safe environment,” said Sophomore Toni Hill.
On Apr. 21 USF also hosted the event “The Culture of Consent,” during which Dr. Jason Lake, Professor at San Jose State University, discussed how rape culture silences conversation about healthy relationships and consent.
“Staff members from The Office of Student Conduct, Rights and Responsibilities , Counseling and Psychological Services, and University Ministry who served on the SAAM Committee were instrumental in the success of the programs this year” said Echols.
Photo Credits: Talia Jade Sourkes