Events around campus focus on sexual assault awareness month


April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the Health and Counseling Center, in collaboration with SafePlace, an organization that advocates for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, has a full line-up of educational and interactive events planned to raise awareness and provide opportunities for survivors and their allies to speak out against sexual assault.

Associate Director of the Health and Counseling Center Beth Charrier was pleased with the focus on addressing sexual assault on college campuses, given how often cases of sexual assault on college campuses have been covered in national news.

“They actually are hoping especially to work with campuses that are trying to engage men on their college campuses in the conversation about sexual assault,” Charrier said. “If we can capitalize on that awareness, I think it’s a good thing.”

According to a 2007 study published by the National Criminal Justice Reference Service and conducted by Christopher Krebs, one in five women and one in 16 men will be a victim of completed or attempted sexual assault while in college. More than 90 percent of sexual assault victims do not report the attack, according to a 2000 study by Dr. Bonnie Fisher.

These statistics heavily influenced the decision to make sexual assault on college campuses the focus of this year’s national Sexual Assault Awareness Month campaign. The “It’s Time to Act. Safer Campuses. Brighter Futures. Prevent Sexual Violence” campaign aims to “support campuses in creating a culture of prevention and effective, trauma-informed response.”

On Campus Events

Artwork by survivors of sexual violence and their friends, families and allies will be on display tonight at “Take Back the Night” from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Health and Counseling Center.

“We’ll display that artwork in our front lobby and as well some informational tables from SafePlace, and then we’ll do a rally (featuring survivor stories and other readings) out front for a half-hour or so,” Charrier said.

Tonight there will also be a screening of the documentary “The Hunting Ground,” in Carter Auditorium immediately following “Take Back the Night.” First premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2015, this documentary, which discusses the issue of rape on college campuses, follows undergraduate rape survivors pursuing both their education and justice despite ongoing harassment.

Students will have an opportunity to join in a discussion that will focus on Rolling Stone’s UVA article and its aftermath on Friday from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. in Fleck 314.

On April 22 from 12 p.m. to 12:50 p.m. in JBWS 180, Amanda Lewis from SafePlace will facilitate a presentation titled “HCC Wellness Lunch and Learn: How to Help a Survivor of Sexual Assault.”

On “Denim Day,” April 28, community members are invited to wear denim to support the survivors of sexual assault. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. members of the Health & Counseling Center will be in Ragsdale Lobby providing denim swatches and describing the significance and history of Denim Day.

HCC & Sexual Assault

Although these events are aimed at raising public awareness about sexual violence and educating communities on how to prevent it, all members of the Health and Counseling Center are trained and ready to help anyone who has been affected by sexual assault in any way.

The process for helping victims of sexual assault on campus begins as early as the filing of the initial report.

“Anytime anybody reports anywhere on campus, (through) either the Dean of Students’ process or through University Police, they’re offered an advocate who’s typically somebody from our office who will go and help them sort through what’s being presented to them in terms of information, helping them make the decision that’s going to be best for them in that process,” Charrier said.

From there, it is entirely up to the victim whether to receive counseling at all, and if they choose to get help, they have the option of going somewhere either on or off-campus.

“I’m always an advocate for somebody to get whatever help in whatever capacity, so sometimes, particularly if the assault happened on campus, people feel like it’d just be nice to get off-campus for whatever help they want,” Charrier said. “I’m happy to provide whatever resources are off-campus that are available to them.”

When victims of sexual assault seek help from the HCC on campus, they are treated on an individual basis.

“It really depends on the person,” Charrier said. “It depends on where they’re at, it depends on what sense they’ve made of the assault itself and how ready they are to tackle that. There’s a lot of factors involved.”

Taking those factors into account, staff members at the Health and Counseling Center help victims with a number of things, including what’s happening in their lives now and support with depression, anxiety, or PTSD symptoms that are results of the assault so that they can begin to heal and move forward.