University Sexual Assault Awareness Month events begin April 12

By Olivia Spiers

The Women’s Resource Center and the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies program have organized a series of events for Sexual Assault Awareness Month in hopes of educating students on college rape culture.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month begins April 1 with the national theme “Engaging New Voices.” The university events begin April 12 and focus on outlining the facts of rape culture and the traumas victims face after assault.

At SIU, 13 people reported acts of sexual assault in 2015 according to the Clery Act report. The number of reports tripled compared to the previous year, surpassing incidents reported at larger campuses like the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and Northwestern University.


“The problem fundamentally comes down to statistics,” said Meghann Pytka, WGSS assistant director. “It’s really of epidemic proportions.”

According to National Sexual Violence Resource Center statistics, more than 90 percent of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault. Those same statistics show that one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college.

Pytka said many sexual assault victims feel isolated when trying to cope with post-assault traumas, which makes spreading awareness essential.

Lauran Schaefer, president of the WGSS student organization, was assaulted twice — once in high school and a second time in college.

“I’m not over the assaults,” Schaefer said. “Many survivors believe there will be a day at the end of some long process where they’re all better, but the truth is we often move in and out of ‘being okay.’”

Schaefer said sometimes survivors can be emotionally numb after assaults or easily triggered by stressful situations.

“I’m a survivor,” Schaefer said. “And it’s important when people attempt to understand the survivor’s perspective.”


The events are intended to break down college rape culture and discuss why survivors are unjustly blamed for their assaults, she said.

Nicole Tabor, coordinator for the Women’s Resource Center, said the events are meant to discuss the negative experiences that are related to sexual assault and provide a safe space to suggest some possible options for university improvement.

“Sexual assault is an issue that affects diverse communities in different ways,” Tabor said.

Tabor said the coordinators planned a Denim Day display and discussion on April 26, in coordination with the national campaign, which was sparked by a 1999 Italian Supreme Court ruling that overturned a rape conviction.

The reasoning in the judgement was based on the victim’s clothing. Because the victim was wearing tight jeans, the justices decided she must have helped her rapist remove her jeans, thereby implying consent.

The following day, the women in the Italian Parliament came to work wearing jeans in solidarity with the victim.

“In some cases, it might be uncomfortable or complicated for victims to report assaults,” Tabor said. “But it happens, and there are resources available here to our victims.”

An international women’s panel is scheduled for April 12, which Schaefer said the event coordinators intend on continuing as a monthly function to keep awareness thriving.

“The problem is rampant on college campuses,” Schaefer said. “That’s why events like this are always important.”

Staff writer Olivia Spiers can be reached at [email protected], 618-536-3325 or on Twitter @_spierso.

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