Sexual Assault and Violence Awareness



by Stefanie Lucas
@stefanie_lucas

April is sexual assault awareness month.  I want to take some time to thank the folks who are advocates (both on campuses and off) who support survivors and others affected by sexual assault and violence year round. However, we cannot rely on these folks to be the only educators and support on campus. In my opinion, this is everyone’s work. Take some time this month to learn about resources available on your campus and analyze current practices. Here are some suggestions:

Talk About Sexual Assault and Violence- If you are not already talking about sexual assault and violence you need to start. Some of the tips I give below should give you somewhere to begin. As student affairs professionals we need to recognize this is happening on our campuses more than we know or realize. If you are someplace where it is not discussed, please start the conversation. Sexual assault and violence should not only be discussed after it happens, but we need to be talking about prevention strategies. In my opinion, consent is a great place to start. Consent for sex, consent for touching, consent for kissing, and so on.

Campus Resources- Know them.  Some campuses are well equipped with programming and support services coming out of a women and or gender center, identity offices, public safety office, or counseling and health services. Other campuses might not have any of these services and a few folks (or sadly none at all) might take on the role or refer out to local services. I have seen a wide spectrum of this. The Women and Gender Advocacy Center at Colorado State University does some awesome work and I would encourage you to check out their website.

Current Practices- Closely examine practices currently in place or what is not in place. Here are some questions to consider: Are students aware of what to do if they are sexual assaulted or are affected by an assault? Does the “system” on your campus make it difficult to report? What barriers for certain folks with different identities (ethnicity, LGBTQIA, etc.) might be in place around education, reporting, and support? Are there educational programs in place year round? Does your orientation program talk about consent or sexual assault prevention? Are you encouraging Resident Assistants to put up bulletin boards or have programming throughout the year? If you do not have an office or advocate, how is information readily available for students? Who is trained and when?

Educate Yourself- Get informed! Know about your local resources, such as a rape crisis center, and be aware of national resources. Meet with the folks on your campus who are advocates and find out ways to get information.  Attend a local workshop or invite someone to campus to talk to student affairs folks and or students. Use Google as there is a ton of information available. Here are a few resources:
-          Sexual Assault Awareness Month
o   National Sexual Assault Hotline- 1-800-656-HOPE
-          The Dear Colleague Letter- if you have not already read this, you probably should. This in itself is a topic for another post.
-          Know your local resources. Example: Denver’s rape crisis center RAAP.

Engage On Twitter- Twitter is a wonderful way to learn about current programs and events. There are tons of good articles and folks tweeting. Every Tuesday for the month of April there is a live discussion about sexual abuse and prevention mostly around children. For information click here. #SAAM

This was a long post, but I want to own the fact it does not even begin to scratch the surface of the many things we need to discuss. We need to talk more about believing survivors, the media’s affect on rape culture, and the need for greater support systems for survivors. Or the fact many campuses are not doing enough education around prevention.

Please do not just read this post and think this should only be a dialogue for the month of April. Keep the conversation going. This is by no means a comprehensive list. What would you add?

Student Affairs - the First Years

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