By IZZY BRIONES
Throughout the month of April, the University of Mary Washington will be hosting events observing Sexual Assault Awareness Month. These events will be open to the entire UMW community to promote awareness and educate the student body, as well as “shatter the silence,” the event’s motto, within the community.
The first event held was Fear2Freedom, at the Anderson Center on April 6, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Those who attended put together aftercare kits, which will be delivered as “gifts of hope” to victims of sexual assault that are currently in the hospital.
In the following weeks more events aimed at promoting awareness throughout campus will take place. A keynote lecture, “Masculinity & Violence Against Women,” will take place inside of the University Center Ballroom on Tuesday, April 12 at 7 p.m. The lecture will look at the relationship between masculinity and violence against women. Following, an event referred to as
“Take Back the Night” will take place on the steps of Lee Hall at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 13. This event is one which the Sexual Assault and Prevention Specialist in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Avina Ross stated will serve, “to support and empower ourselves [as a community] and survivors with respect to sexual violence.”
To close the month’s events UMW will observe Sexual Assault Awareness Day on Tuesday, April 19. The community will be able to symbolically recognize impact of sexual assault and its relevance at UMW by wearing awareness ribbons and t-shirts.
When asked about the significance of Sexual Assault Awareness Month at UMW and the events, Sexual Assault and Prevention Specialist in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Avina Ross stated that the month, “is about providing education, empowerment and support to our community to prevent and effectively respond to sexual assault.
During this time, myths about sexual assault are challenged by providing accurate information about prevalence, dynamics and resources for help. Additionally, it is a pivotal time to help empower survivors through support, their healing journey and in sharing their stories.”
The subject is not only one that affects students, but the entire UMW community at large. When asked about why this month and its events were important to her, Ross shared her passion for her work and the relevance of this month for her personally, having had a friend disclose that she was a survivor of sexual assault.
“We worked together on several projects and that work and purpose has yet to leave me,” Ross said. “I believe sexual assault can be prevented by educating community members on consent, healthy sexuality and also the hardships faced by survivors of sexual assault.”
The events this month aim to educate the UMW community as a whole and that education in turn aids the community in talking about and addressing the sexual assault openly.
“I do strongly appreciate our 2016 theme, which is ‘shatter the silence.’ All too often survivors are blamed, embarrassed and/or shamed for their victimization and these aspects feed into their silence,” Ross said. “But, survivorship stories often times motivates individuals to get involved and learn more, so shattering the silence of survivorship is not only helpful for educational purposes, but also imperative for ending the violence.”
The university hopes to ‘shatter the silence’ on the subject of sexual assault in and outside of the community. With these events in place, it can be seen that April is a month for building strength and creating an even greater community at UMW, and one in which the community will grow and develop together.