University organizations to host events for Sexual Assault Awareness Month

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University organizations to host events for Sexual Assault Awareness Month

By Karen Liu, Staff Reporter

The Women’s Resource Center is teaming up with other University organizations to host events for community members with the hope of bringing attention to the issues surrounding sexual violence during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

“Our community has been pretty committed to doing events to raise awareness, help survivors feel supported and challenge the social norms that allow sexual assaults to continue,” said Molly McLay, assistant director at the Women’s Resource Center.

Many of the events are designed to bring people from the community together and talk about the on-campus resources available for those affected by sexual assault. McLay said that the theme this year is “Engaging New Voices.”

Even with organizations such as the Women’s Resource Center working to raise awareness about sexual assault, this issue still affects many students on campus.

Patrick Wade, UIPD communications specialist, said that there were 15 cases of sexual assault reported to the UIPD last year. However, the department does not have jurisdiction over the private apartments on campus since they are not considered University property.

“There is a very narrow picture of when these crimes are happening, when it’s actually much broader than that; most sexual assaults aren’t reported to any formal person,” McLay said. “That would never generate a Campus Safety Notice because the University doesn’t know that it happened.”

On top of that, McLay said that a lot of sexual assault reports don’t fall into the legal category of sexual assault that would generate Campus Safety Notices.

Such notices regarding sexual assaults often stir up controversy among students when they do not include the locations at which the assaults take place. McLay said that withholding this information is to protect the victims.

“The survivor has had a lot of power taken away, and to share that information could further harm them,” McLay said. “And it should really be the survivor’s choice what information is shared.”

Wade also said that the first priority is to protect the privacy of the survivors. The UIPD tries to avoid giving out any information that could be used to piece together their identities.

“(Sexual assault) is, unfortunately, something that happens all over campus all the time,” Wade said. “So we don’t want people to focus too microscopically on this one incident that happens at this one location, because it’s such a larger issue than that.”

The UIPD is scheduled to attend a discussion hosted by the Women’s Resource Center on April 13 about Campus Safety Notices and the different resources offered on campus.

“We’re finally getting to that point where awareness has been raised and now we can start talking about ‘OK, what are the solutions here? How can we end rape culture on college campuses around the country?’” Wade said.

Rape Advocacy, Counseling, & Education Services is another organization that participates in Sexual Assault Awareness Month. One of its major events is “Take Back the Night,” which is a march from Lincoln Square Mall to campus.

Adelaide Aime, executive director of the organization, said that the aim of the event is to raise awareness and make everyone feel more comfortable for their personal safety, wherever they are, especially at night.

“There is still such a strong stigma against people who’ve experienced any kind of sexual violence and that it makes people scared to reach out for help,” Aime said. “This crime, unfortunately, is common. You are not the only one. Statistically, you and I both know someone who’s been sexually assaulted, as do everyone else.”

Students Against Sexual Assault is a registered student organization that started two years ago. Representatives did not respond to requests for comment, but they are reportedly working alongside the Women’s Resource Center for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

“We find that Students Against Sexual Assault’s events are very integral to the month in terms of providing an opportunity for survivors to share their stories,” McLay said. “(Whether) it be the survivors sharing their stories in person through artistic expression or sharing anonymously in a way that feels safest to them.”

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