Fact: Since August 23, 2013, 24 reports of sexual assault have been filed with local (State College or University Park) police.
Fact: According to the Center for Public Integrity, 90 to 95 percent of all college cases go unreported.
Fact: Every year, Penn State students take a stand against sexual violence.
“The purpose of Sexual Violence Prevention and Awareness Month is to convey that the Penn State community as a whole has taken a stand against sexual violence,” says Taylor Olson, coordinator of this year’s events.
This year was special, because in previous years, Sexual Violence Prevention and Awareness Month used to only last a week in April. Doing it for a month gives Olsen and her team more time to coordinate events such as speakers and moving screenings, while still keeping in nationwide events like Take Back the Night and Walk a Mile in her shoes.
“Events include smaller, more intimate healing gatherings for victims that are meant to encourage conversation as well as speakers meant for much larger audiences,” says Olson.
For everybody who is a survivor, the students of Sexual Violence Prevention and Awareness Month are doing everything they can to help educate students on consent, increase the awareness of sexual assault and inform everybody of resources. These resources include the Center for Women Students, Counseling and Psychological Services and the Center County Women’s Resource Center.
“One of our goals is to increase awareness of the problem of sexual assault on campus so that we can collectively change our culture,” says Olson. “This includes creating an atmosphere where victims to feel fully supported by their community and know that they aren’t alone in facing this issue.”
Speaking of educating and information, there is a lot of confusion on what some terms mean, as “rape,” “sexual assault” and “sexual violence” are often used interchangeably. The Center Country Women’s Resource Center website explains:
Rape is forced sexual intercourse, including vaginal, anal or oral penetration. Penetration may be by a body part or an object.
Sexual Assault is unwanted sexual contact that stops short of rape or attempted rape. This includes sexual touching and fondling. (Please note: this term is sometimes used interchangeably with rape).
Sexual Violence means any sexual contact with a person without his or her consent. (Ranging from rape to sexual harassment).
Another goal of Penn State’s fight against sexual violence is to have everybody – not just women, but men, too – getting involved.
“I’ve found that we often think of sexual violence in all its forms as a women’s issue because women are so frequently the victims of it,” says Olson. “But the reality is that sexual violence is a men’s issue and everyone’s issue. While most rapists are men, most men are not rapists.”
While Olson says it’s hard for her to choose her favorite events, she does love Walk a Mile.
“Male students physically walk a mile in high heels down Pollock road holding signs that say ‘Sexual Violence is a Man’s Issue’,” she says. “Women can attend and walk amongst them but they have to be in comfortable shoes. This represents men gaining perspective on how it feels to be a woman and the double standard enforced on men versus women. The guys usually come out of it with an increased respect for the ladies.”
Remember, to everybody who is a survivor of sexual violence of any kind: you are not alone. There are many (free) resources available to help you, and you always have the support of #jointhefight.
Photo provided by Lindsey Wolf