It is time to get involved

Walking through the Park Blocks recently, you may have noticed tables being run by PSU’s Women’s Resource Center.

Walking through the Park Blocks recently, you may have noticed tables being run by PSU’s Women’s Resource Center. People from all backgrounds were invited to view the informative brochures that contained material on what the month of April is all about: sexual assault awareness.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month—a national campaign whose mission is to empower women who have experienced the all-too-common occurrence of sexual assault—holds a distinct theme this year that encourages and teaches bystanders how to step in and stop it. The theme, “It’s Time to Get Involved,” sums up the essence of what campaigners are hoping to communicate about sexual violence and will play a major role in the events centered around this concept.

“The goal is to really bring awareness to sexual assault,” said WRC volunteer C.J. Smith, who has worked at the tables. “We basically want to get the word out there that [sexual assault] is happening to people that they know everywhere.”

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in six women in America has experienced sexual violence in their lifetime. Out of these assaults, 60 percent are not reported to the police, and 15 out of 16 rapists will never even spend a day in jail. These statistics are what motivate activists both to raise awareness and to promote change in every community around the nation.

Accompanying the national campaign’s theme are three core values that bring a sense of understanding of the issue: support, healing and creating change. Participants are urged to offer their support to victims by listening to their stories, being available and giving them comfort by assuring them that they are not to blame.

Healing is also an important component and can be achieved through WRC support groups and the tools they offer. In order to create change, the NSVRC encourages people to volunteer for a local shelter or donate to the Portland Women’s Crisis Line and similar groups committed to providing support services for survivors of sexual violence.

National Day of Action kicked off the month’s events on April 5, when all PSU students were encouraged to join the Healthy Campus Initiative by picking up information at any one of the many tables set out on campus. They were also able to decorate their own Action Flags, sign an Active Bystander pledge and learn more about ways to get involved in the cause.

Strike Out Sexism Bowling, held in the PSU Viking Gameroom on April 7, drew together students who created several different teams for a fun evening that included bowling, a raffle and educational materials.

Through an hour of open discussion on April 8, the WRC also hosted “Framing Sexual Assault: The Public Health Model and Sexual Violence Prevention,” which gave participants the chance to analyze how media framing influences our thoughts on sexual violence.

Professor Chris Carey, Ph.D., JD, will also speak to students on April 21. His lecture will focus on human trafficking and the importance of working with different groups to improve the field of human rights by promoting the application of international law.

“We think it is important for people to get involved,” Smith said. “A lot of it is happening with the Women’s Resource Center, but it goes beyond that because of donations from the community.”

SAAM’s most anticipated event is scheduled for Thursday, April 28. Take Back the Night/Bike Back the Night will recognize and bring attention to sexual violence by collaborating with the community in an organized march.

“Take Back the Night is a symbolic march,” said Katlyn Tracy, one of the volunteers for the WRC. “We want women to feel safe as they walk through the city at night.”

The event will begin with local entertainment in the PSU South Park Blocks. All are welcome and encouraged to enjoy music, food and a number of activities that will promote the idea of ridding sexual violence, and not only among college students. Take Back the Night’s core message is “to promote the understanding that everyone deserves the right to feel safe in their neighborhood and on the streets.” After both the entertainment and rally are held in the Park Blocks, the bike ride and march into the community will take place to honor survivors. The night will end with keynote speaker Loretta Stinson.

“The march is meant to create a safe space for women to go into the city to raise awareness, and then they’ll be able to share stories of their experiences after listening to the speaker,” Smith said. “Our hope is that one day all women will be able to walk around at night without feeling like they are in danger or at risk.”

Those involved with Sexual Assault Awareness Month hope to not only reach women, but also men who have the power to stop sexual violence. The events throughout the month will likely affect many community members and thus will hopefully motivate them to make efforts to significantly decrease the amount of sexual violence crimes that occur all too frequently. ?