The heightened discourse surrounding sexual assault—especially on college campuses—has significantly increased over the past decade, but especially over the past school year.
Studies released in the last year by the National Sexual Violence resource center show that sexual assault is more likely to happen to those who live on campus. Less than 5 percent of sexual assaults are reported to the authorities, but they are often shared with close friends or family.
This April marks Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), and numerous state and private universities across the nation are trying to shed light on this issue and to advocate prevention or intervention.
On Tuesday April 7 the 2015 Rollins Rally Against Violence took place, organized by Rollins alum and Title IX Coordinator Oriana Jimenez.
The issue at hand is inarguably delicate; however, the event was organized in a lighthearted way to encourage solidarity, and to advocate positive change regarding sexual assault.
Participants were encouraged to sign petitions and were educated about resources and campaigns available nationwide and in Orlando.
The rally served as the kickoff to SAAM, with events planned for the rest of the month like The Vagina Monologues, a Paws for Peace Walk, and National Denim Day.
There were 13 organizations from Rollins—including the Student Government Association; Sexuality, Women’s, and Gender Studies (SWAG) and the Lucy Cross Center for Women.
Three external organizations hosted tables with various information and activities.
One of the two campaigns present was It’s On Us, which came to Rollins last semester and shed light on the issue, identifying situations in which sexual assault may occur, and discussing intervention in situations of assault and how to create an environment that prevents assault and supports survivors.
Another participating campaign was the White Ribbon Pledge. All men at Rollins were invited to sign the pledge to raise awareness and take action against gender violence.
The rally included several speakers.
Reverend Shawn Garvey of Knowles Memorial Chapel shared words of healing and called for a moment of silence for victims and survivors; Acting President Craig McAllaster shared comments and read the Sexual Assault Awareness Month Proclamation; President of the Student Government Association Elise Ablin led a student call to action and read the Proclamation Toward a Healthy Future.
Lastly, Jimenez shared words of hope and support for the future of our community: “The overall purpose of the event [was] building awareness, education and community,” she stated. “The spirit of the event will be fun, positive and uplifting.”
As the Title IX coordinator, Jimenez said her role is “to coordinate all efforts for education and prevention on campus.”
She said, “While part of my role is ensuring the college remains in compliance with its legal obligations under Title IX, I fully intend for the scope of my office to reach above and beyond mere compliance and actively collaborate with on-campus partners to actually reduce the incidence of violence on our campus. It is important for our students to feel safe on campus and to be informed about the resources (some of which are confidential) that are in place to support and protect them.”
She added, “The Title IX law explicitly states: no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. Under Title IX, the College is obligated to take appropriate action to end misconduct, prevent its reoccurrence, and address its effects. Colleges nationwide, including Rollins, have increased both education and training on campuses. Rollins takes sexual violence very seriously and is taking lasting steps to ensure our entire community is well-trained and knowledgeable.”
This is why Rollins and many other universities are striving to bring campus-wide initiatives to their surrounding areas and change the stigma and victim-blaming that often occurs nationwide.
The official color of SAAM is teal. Everyone is encouraged to wear a teal ribbon or teal clothes in April.
The hashtag of all SAAM events is #RollinsSAAM15.