April is a month of many things: opening day for the MLB, April Fools’ Day, plus NBA and NHL Playoffs. What many people do not know is that April is also Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Sexual assault can be a very uncomfortable subject for students to talk about. However, it is something that needs to be addressed.
Sexual assaults tend to hap- pen more frequently in the fe- male community than in the male community. One out of every six women will experience rape or attempted rape in their lifetime, while one in every 10 victims are male.
Nevertheless, sexual assaults affect a lot more than just the victims.
“Sexual assault is definitely something that affects the sexes across the board,” said Nicole Bihler, the health educator on campus. “It isn’t just a female thing or just a male thing because it is happening to both sexes and [affects] both.”
Sexual assaults are commonly seen as random acts of violence committed by a stranger. However, that is far from the truth. Most sexual assaults, especially those on college campuses, are committed by someone known to the victim.
“A lot of cases on college campuses involve alcohol,” said Bihler.
Springfield College is no exception. Sexual assaults do occur here, much like other college campuses across the United States. The majority of these assaults go unreported.
A lot of unreported sexual assaults come from students not knowing exactly what sexual assault is and what kinds of acts fall under its classification.
Sexual assault is defined as a “conduct of a sexual or in- decent nature toward another person that is accompanied by actual or threatened physical force or that induces fear, shame or mental suffering.” Now, what does all that mean?
That definition simply means that sexual assault is any time an offender subjects a victim to sexual touching. This includes, but is not limited to, groping, battery and attempted rape.
Understanding and knowing what sexual assault is can help you, a friend or anyone prevent sexual assault from occurring. Sometimes the best kind of prevention is knowledge and awareness. That is exactly what April is for: knowledge and awareness about sexual assault.
Sexual Assault Awareness Month is dedicated to helping everyone, males and females, understand what sexual assault is and what they can do if they feel they were assaulted.
“Sexual assault awareness is something that should be practiced all year round,” said Erin Knight, a Springfield College senior.
“It’s great that there is a month dedicated to actually going out and making people realize it, but sexual assault doesn’t just happen in April. You have to fight it year round and make people understand how severe it is.”
There are numerous events being held around campus this month to help inform students about sexual assault and help victims understand that they are not alone.
The one in six campaign, introduced to residence halls this month by the PAWS organization, hangs six silhouettes of women around each residence hall. Five of the silhouettes have a heart and one has a broken heart, representing the one in six women who are affected by sexual assault. These silhouettes will be hung all month for students to see.
On Wednesday, April 10, Springfield College hosted a group called Not Ready For Bedtime Players from the University of Massachusetts. The group’s goal was to educate others to think critically about sexuality including sensitive issues such as sexual violence, while encouraging students to make safer decisions.
Also, on Wednesday, April 17 at 7:30 p.m. in the Dodge Ballroom, there will be a sexual assault panel called Debunking the Myth: A Guide to Sexual Assault, which will uncover the myths about sexual assault, sexual assault at SC, how to protect yourself and prevent sexual assault and your rights if you are sexually assaulted.
The panel, put together by Knight, will be speaking to students and the members include, Jami Chrzanowski, the sexual assault advocate on campus, Gary Enright from the Counseling Center, a spokesperson from the Victim’s Rights Law Center and Public Safety officers on campus. These events and more will be provided to students throughout the month of April and will help spread awareness and knowledge about sexual assault and how to prevent it.
“The purpose of these events is to make students aware that this is an ongoing issue, not only on campus but all over,” said Chrzanowski. “We will be working to educate students on what to do if they find themselves in a situation they need help with and to pre- vent sexual assault.”
Here are some basic tips to help students be more aware of their surroundings and to prevent sexual assault on them and their fellow Springfield students:
-Be aware of your surroundings at all times.
-Trust your instincts; if you feel uncomfortable then leave or call for help.
-Always use the buddy system so you are not alone going out at night or in unfamiliar environments.
-Never leave your drink unattended or accept a drink from a stranger.
– Keep your phone charged and with you at all times.
Precautions like these and others can help you and your friends from being sexually assaulted.
Chrzanowski is the Sexual Assault Advocate on campus and is available to talk to if needed. She can be reached at the Health Center by phone at (413) 748-3175 or after hours at (413) 250-2178.