By DREW TWITCHELL
Statistics show that 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men will be subject to some form of sexual violence during their lives. With this being said, the Advocates at SLU are creating a week to concentrate their efforts to raising awareness and educate SLU’s population to the prevention of sexual violence, as April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). TEAL is the ribbon color for this week of awareness and it will be running the 16th through the 20th of April, 2012. It will consist of different activities and information sessions. Activities will show support of those affected, as well as educate everyone on the act(s) of sexual violence and how to avoid it.
One awareness activity is the placement of 320 flags displayed in the quad, during TEAL week. Each flag represents those affected and others yet to be affected by sexually violent crimes. With 2457 students and 556 faculty and staff members, it is calculated that slightly over 10% of those on our campus have been, or will be affected by a sexually violent crime in their lifetime. TEAL week is designed specifically to concentrate all efforts into one week. The saturation method allows those who are not aware of the topic or those reluctant to familiarize themselves with sexual violence and how we at SLU can prevent the act(s) of sexual violence.
The Advocates Program is another resource which allows students, faculty, and staff an avenue where they can reach out to and talk with the program staff. This program promotes privacy and confidentiality; if there ever came a time someone needed to express their feelings. The Advocates main goals are: educate campus, support both victims and potential victims, and promote activism towards awareness of sexual violence. The main purpose of creating awareness of sexual violence, according to senior Advocate Krysia Kornecki, “…is to put the advocates out there, and be available for anyone who may need help in this very sensitive topic.”
“Sexual violence is one of those topics where people aren’t comfortable talking about it and sometimes negate that it even happens at all here at SLU”, says Kornecki. “Because people don’t talk about it, people on campus don’t see it, but it does take place and I believe too much for my standards,” further stated Kornecki. An abbreviated definition of what constitutes sexual violence is any [sexually] physical act that is unwanted or without consent. Consent means the person must be above the age of eighteen years, and free from the effects of drugs and alcohol.
SLU is known as a school with high academic standing and therefore the acts of sexual violence, according to some, dampen the overall appeal to the school. What most close their eyes to and tend to not want to believe is that just as with other schools of the same caliber, drugs and alcohol play a predominant role in most weekend and sometimes-even weekday plans. According to Kornecki, she believes, “Sex regret is one of those new terms where the ‘one night stand’ may not have been in a clear state of mind and therefore those involved may regret the actions he/she took while under the influence.”
There are many differing opinions on what sexual violence actually is and what most reflect on when thinking of sexual violence. Many drift to the stereotypical Lifetime movie where the unknown ‘man’ jumps the ‘woman’ and takes advantage of her. However, it is predominantly the exact opposite. In most instances the affected or violated knew their perpetrator. According to Kornecki, “There is that gray area of the one night stand and the misinterpretation of those involved, and what took place, and what is to come from the experience.” Kornecki stated, “She wishes that more students were educated on the topic of sexual violence and not afraid to express themselves if there ever was a time they needed help.”
TEAL week opens doors and offers the various events and activities in the hope that through their visual presence, SLU will be closer to a sexual violence free campus. “They will be selling t-shirts and raffle tickets to raise money for the Renewal House.” “Renewal House is right here in Canton. ‘It is a safe house, where people will go to talk and receive help.’ ‘Other activities include the Poetry Slam/ Open Mic at Java, a self-defense class promoting positivity and empowerment, the showing of Misrepresentation in the Winston Room, along with the flags on the quad, general decorations supporting the national color of teal with different foods and ribbons being displayed in teal color will also be visible, as reminders,” according to Kornecki.
Kornecki speaks for all Advocates when she states, “I encourage people to participate, because safety for one is equal to safety of all.” The Advocates hope to promote a safer SLU with less acts of sexual violence and to help educate others of sexual violence so they can be aware of who to contact in case of need. The Counseling Center is another outlet and helps with certain topics where advocacy is always a two way street. Advocates send to the Counseling Center and those affected might feel more comfortable talking to someone they know in the advocates. Either way there are resources out there and the main goal is to educate and show activism and awareness against sexual violence.