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This April, schools nationwide will take part in National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey reports that 1 in 5 women have experienced sexual assault in their lifetimes, and 1 in 71 men have been the victims of assault. The majority of victims knew the perpetrator.

In an effort to reduce this risk of violence for both women and men, universities and other organizations are spearheading awareness and prevention campaigns. Some campuses—such as Oakton Community College in Des Plaines, Illinois, and Portland State University in Oregon—will offer the acclaimed program Take Back the Night. This international initiative seeks to end sexual violence and encourage dialogue through survivor speak-outs, speeches, open forums, and marches designed to empower and educate.

The White Ribbon Project is also an international movement. It focuses on involving men and boys in work to end sexual violence, promote gender equality and healthy relationships, and develop a new vision of masculinity—through workshops, presentations, and conferences. Many schools, such as the University of New Hampshire in Durham, encourage students and staff to wear ribbons as a pledge to help end violence.

More examples of campus programs

Schools across the country have programs to raise awareness about sexual violence. Here are some more:

  • Many colleges, such as Oakton Community College in Des Plaines, Illinois, and Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah, participate in The Clothesline Project, an initiative that began in 1990 as a way for those impacted by violence to communicate their feelings and end the silence. Participants decorate a shirt as a testimony to all those affected by violence. The shirts are then displayed on a clothesline, often in a school’s student center, a community center, or in another central location. To learn more about The Clothesline Project, CLICK HERE.
  • At the University of Maryland in College Park, fraternities and sororities implement the 10 Man Plan and 10 Woman Plan, designed to involve students in discussions about the myths around sexual assault, victim blaming, and how to prevent sexual violence. On the University of Maryland’s Her Campus Web site, a student explains, “The 10 Woman Plan is a spinoff of the 10 Man Plan, which is comprised of a group of men within [a fraternity] chapter who work to educate themselves and their peers about sexual assault on campus.”
  • Portland State University, in Oregon, has planned a variety of events, such as a faculty lecture and a workshop titled “Love Your Body After Trauma,” aimed at supporting survivors of violence.

Why not get involved and make your own voice heard? There may be events being planned at your school or in your community already, so check with your school’s health or women’s center or reach out to local community organizations. You can also attend events at local schools, encourage friends and family members to speak up, or post information about risk-reduction and services for survivors of violence on social media.

More ideas about getting involved

April is a great time to get involved in violence prevention initiatives at your school or in your community. It’s also an opportune time to learn more about bystander intervention. This approach to violence prevention recognizes that people need to take responsibility for the things that happen around them, and make it clear that violence of any kind is not tolerated. Here are some ways to be an active bystander:

  • Support healthy behaviors on your campus: communication, respect, and consent.
  • Look for signs before an assault occurs that someone is disrespectful of other people’s boundaries, coercive, pressuring, or aggressive.
  • Speak up about acceptable and unacceptable behavior, take action to prevent violence, and report it when it does occur.
  • Notice what’s going on around you. If something doesn’t feel right, say something and intervene.
  • Use the “three D’s” as a guideline: direct, delegate, and distract.
  • Address the fear of getting hurt yourself by assessing whether you feel it’s safe to intervene. It is important to protect yourself and avoid stepping into a situation where you could be harmed.
  • If necessary, call for help, or designate someone else to do so while you stay and monitor the situation. Campus security personnel, local police, and sometimes even an older student or Residential Assistant, by their presence, can cease the problematic behavior or allow the potential victim to get away.
  • If the situation appears to be life threatening, call 911 immediately.
  • Don’t worry about doing exactly the right thing; just do something.

For more about how to take action as a bystander, CLICK HERE.

Suggestions for seeking support

It’s important to find emotional support, whether you are the survivor of an assault or are supporting someone who is. Understand that you and the person you care about are not to blame for what happened. Talk to someone you trust and allow yourself time to heal, as it’s normal to feel a range of emotions.

You may want to consider seeking counseling. Many schools have professional counselors available or can connect you with local resources. You can also call national or local crisis hotlines to speak with someone about what happened. You can tell them about your experience; they are there to help you through what has happened and be by your side if you want to seek medical attention or report the crime to campus security or the local police.

Consider getting medical care, too. You can visit an emergency room or a health care provider at your university’s health center. Clinicians can treat any injuries, test for and treat any sexually transmitted infections, and can either complete an evidence collection kit or refer you to another provider who can.

It can be hard to talk about experiences with violence. Remember that staff at your school can listen and help; you just need to ask.

For additional support, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).


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