April is less than a month away. It's a time for Spring, new beginnings, and change. What better time to plant the seeds of change on campus?
April is also Sexual Assault Awareness Month. It's important for the entire campus to get involved in putting a stop to assault on campus. We need to be equipped with an awareness of not only what sexual assault is, but how it affects survivors, and what we all can do to provide them with a supportive network. Sexual Assault Prevention starts with an informed mindset. Awareness plants the seeds for long term prevention on campus.
Every individual can be an agent of change, not just in April, but in every conversation, question, action and mindset.
Here are five ways anyone can take part in Sexual Assault Awareness (Every)Month:
1. Define the terms
Students are often unaware of what crosses the line between healthy relationships and harassment or abuse. With fear and stigma prevalent in the college community, many crimes go unreported. One out of every six American women and one in 33 American men has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. Research shows that 90 percent of campus rapists are repeat offenders, averaging nearly six victims each who often go undetected. Learn about what "healthy consent" means. What is the definition of "assault" on campus. What is Title IX? Where do you report a case of assault? Get informed n your own campus, and once you do, spread the word.
2. Understand and access the available resources on campus
Understanding where to go for help is imperative for college students who have suffered an assault, and for those wishing to report or intervene. Participants will learn where to find campus resources for support, help, and reporting related to gender-based misconduct, and will be introduced to wellness and counseling faculty, discuss Title IX, as well as sexual assault and wellness resources on campus, opening the channel of communication between students and staff.
3. Build a support network
As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." A strong community is essential for helping survivors break silence and free themselves of fear, shame and stigma. If we create an environment in which all community members can learn and participate free from sexual and gender-based misconduct, we can change our culture and create a safe, inclusive campus, collectively ending silence.
4. Encourage healthy coping skills
In the wake of sexual assault, many survivors may hold onto certain coping mechanisms that once allowed them to survive a traumatic experience. After the trauma has passed, these coping mechanisms may become destructive behaviors that keep the individual stuck in the trauma. By developing a resiliency toolbox, they can begin to regain their sense of self-esteem, safety, strength and calm. As a campus, if we encourage the development of healthy coping skills, we can create an informed community better able to help survivors transform former mechanisms -- or survival strategies -- into healthy tools they can use as an asset in the present. Check out some healthy coping skills here.
5. Get creative
Through art, we can find ways to channel our feelings in ways that may be too overwhelming or frightening for words. For survivors, art is a way to be with our emotions in a safe space without them overtaking us, and through our art, we have the power to transform our experience. For all students, art amplifies our advocacy efforts on campus. Through creativity -- whether it be a video, a banner, open mic night -- we can speak up about sexual assault in a way that builds community understanding and support.
Making a Permanent Change
Through assault awareness, we can foster a supportive, compassionate community. When every student can identify their role in changing our culture, we can make it a safe and inclusive campus. A safe, compassionate, informed campus -- isn't that something we'd like every month?
Let's make sexual assault awareness a long-term mindset that lasts all year long. Let's make April our new, empowered beginning.
Amy works directly with survivors of sexual assault and those healing from PTSD. Learn more about her college mental health program and sexual assault prevention initiative on her site, www.amyoes.com. All artwork was created by Amy in her own healing process.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-656-HOPE for the National Sexual Assault Hotline.