Sexual Assault Awareness Week brings difficult conversations to the forefront

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), a time each year to support the prevention of sexual assault, harassment, and abuse. This year’s campaign focus is “Drawing Conclusions: Prevention Demands Equity.” According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) website, the campaign, “calls on all individuals, communities, organizations, and institutions to change ourselves and the systems surrounding us to build racial equity and respect.”

As NSVRC notes, sexual violence is intimately tied to other systems of oppression, meaning that those who hope to address issues of sexual violence must also address other oppressive societal tools such as racism, sexism, and ableism. According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) an American is sexually assaulted every 68 seconds, but that jarring statistic is even higher for those in marginalized communities.

Research collected and studied by RAINN shows that 21% of college students who identify as transgender, genderqueer, or gender nonconforming (TGQN) have been sexually assaulted, compared to 18% of non-TGQN female college students and 4% of non-TGQN male college students. Regarding race, Native Americans experience the most sexual violence and are twice as likely to experience rape or sexual assault than all other races.

Explore more statistics from RAINN

This year at Lees-McRae, Campus Life has answered the call to address the pervasive issues of sexual assault and sexual violence by making changes to build a stronger foundation of racial equity and respect through a partnership with Oasis Inc. Campus Life and Oasis, a High Country-based non-profit that is dedicated to ending domestic and sexual violence in Watauga and Avery counties and providing support for those who have experienced it, collaborated on a week of topical programming.

Sexual Assault Awareness Week this year was recognized Monday, April 17−Friday, April 21, and each day was full of informative and interactive programming designed to start difficult conversations about the reality of sexual violence on college campuses and throughout the country.

“Conversations surrounding sexual violence are critical to have with students on campus. Oftentimes students have never been exposed to these conversations,” Director of Campus Life Riley Smithey said. “Education and awareness help prevent sexual violence by giving our students the appropriate tools to be an active bystander in our own community.”

Programming from the week included a campus Clothesline Project, which gave a visual representation of the breadth of sexual violence by displaying t-shirts made by survivors; a Take Back the Night event featuring words from community partners, survivor stories, a performance from The Highlanders, and an evening march across campus; an interactive quiz activity, Do’s and Donuts of Healthy Relationships; and much more.

Participating in these kinds of events on campus is just one way to make an impact during SAAM. RAINN also recommends supporting the cause through donations, political action, volunteering, and spreading the word on social media. Donating money, time, or much-needed items to Oasis is a great way to make a difference in the community, but RAINN also offers virtual volunteering opportunities. Take on the NSVRC challenge today and change yourself and the systems around you to build a society built on racial equity, respect, and bodily autonomy.

Get involved with Oasis

Make a donation to RAINN

Learn more about the laws surrounding sexual violence in North Carolina

By Maya JarrellApril 24, 2023
Campus LifeCommunity