By Nora Fitzgerald
During the month of April, it is important to recognize the incredible work that lead to its declaration as Sexual Assault Awareness Month in 2009. Sexual assault is something that may not happen to everyone, but everyone can learn how to better support those affected by sexual violence.
The push for sexual assault awareness and gender-based violence was championed by women in the early 1900s, although much of this work can be attributed to women of color. Women of color, including Ida B. Wells and Rosa Parks, dedicated their adult lives to combatting both race-based and gender-based discrimination.
Open discussion about sexual violence was not common during this time, but activists began to challenge the norm in order to raise more awareness to this issue.
In most recent years, support for the movement has grown following national headlines like the #MeToo movement, the Brock Turner investigation and the Larry Nassar investigation.
According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network), an American is sexually assaulted every 73 seconds. Despite being such a frequent crime, only 5 out of every 1,000 perpetrators of sexual assault will be convicted.
Although activists and organizations have made significant progress in drawing attention to this issue, there is still a lot of work to be done. Sexual assault awareness month reminds us that each survivor’s story is different and not all victims are the same.
When they hear “sexual assault”, most people picture a male offender and a female victim. While that describes many situations, it is important to recognize that anyone can be affected by sexual violence. People with disabilities, men, the elderly and gender non-conforming individuals are just some examples of groups who experience unique struggles coping with their trauma.
Unfortunately, many of these survivors do not receive the support they need following an assault. Many people from marginalized groups or individuals who may not appear to be a “typical victim” face judgement, aren’t taken seriously, or are blamed for their situation.
The Office of Non-Discrimination Initiatives at Springfield College is hosting several events during the month of April to bring awareness to sexual violence. There is an informational display and book collection in the Learning Commons that will be up until the end of the month with resources and a calendar of campus events.
This Wednesday, April 14, there will be a remote viewing of the film Athlete A hosted by ONDI and the Student Athlete Leadership Team. Athlete A tells the story of investigative reporters and brave gymnasts who exposed the decades long abuse that existed in USA Gymnastics.
There will be a follow-up discussion that prompts participants to consider how supportive environments can be created for survivors of sexual assault within athletics. This discussion will be on April 18, via zoom.
Denim Day is an international day of awareness for sexual assault that is taking place on April 28. This day gets its name from a court case in Italy which resulted in outrage all over the world. The Court ruled that since the victim’s jeans were so tight, the victim must have helped the perpetrator take them off, implying consent.
Since 1999, Denim Day has been a way to stand in solidarity with survivors of sexual violence. This year for Denim Day, the Office of Non-Discrimination Initiatives is hosting a resource fair in collaboration with different student groups on campus. This will be taking place on the Admin. Green beginning at 11:30 a.m.
This month, you are encouraged to take part in supporting survivors of sexual violence either on campus or off in any way that you can. If you are interested in any of the events sponsored by the Office of Non-Discrimination Initiatives this month, check out the office Instagram @sctitleix for more information.