Sexual assault is something that 1 in 5 students on campus experience and that everyone has been affected by in some way. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and even if you have not experienced this, you probably know at least one person who has been sexually assaulted. If you don’t, it’s probably because those people haven’t spoken out about it. At WSU, there are many resources on campus that help students file reports of sexual assault and receive the support they need. These resources include:

This month is intended to create awareness of the alarming 1 in 5 statistic and educate communities on how to prevent sexual assault. Every year, WSU sends out a Campus Climate Survey to collect information about students on campus and their experiences with sexual assault. According to Tamara Berg, who creates, implements and analyzes the survey, the 2017 feedback shows of the 1,333 students who completed this year’s survey, 274 reported unwanted sexual contact since the start of the academic year, which is about 20%. In addition, of those who completed the survey, 175 reported dating or domestic violence since the start of the academic year, which is 13%. These numbers should concern students, families and the Winona community, and to create awareness WSU has joined The Red Tape Project. WSU is the third campus to join the initiative.

This project brings awareness to campus sexual assaults by placing red Xs on a map to represent where a sexual assault has occurred. These Xs can be anonymously added to the map, and there are also blue hearts on the map to represent resources for survivors. A recent Winonan article explains more about this project and WSU’s involvement. Below is a screenshot of the Winona area on the project’s map.

So, now that you know what resources are available on campus and what ongoing projects are underway to create awareness of sexual assault, what can you do the rest of April to acknowledge Sexual Assault Awareness Month?

First, you can get involved.

You can become a WSU peer advocate and assist survivors of gender-based violence after completing 45 hours of training. Also, you can participate in PACT trainings which are led by RE Initiative peer educators about gender-based violence, bystander intervention and cultural factors.

There are also a bunch of campus events planned in the next few weeks in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Here’s what you can participate in:

  • “Bake Sale, Yeah!”: From Monday, April 17 until Wednesday, April 19 beginning at 10am the RE Initiative Club will be having a bake sale in Kryzsko. All proceeds from the bake sale will be donated to the Women’s Resource Center of Winona.
  • Pre-Take Back the Night Survivor Support WorkshopPlanning to attend the survivor SpeakOut at Take Back the Night? Breaking the silence for the first time or even attending a survivor event can be distressing to those who have lived through violence and sexual assault. The RE Initiative is sponsoring an event for survivors who plan to attend Take Back the Night. We will use yoga-based movement, breathing and mindfulness techniques to support anchoring and grounding, distress tolerance/emotional regulation and empowered choice making. There will also be pre- and post-event processing tools (finding an anthem, journaling, grounding stones, etc.), and discussion of pre- and post-event self-care. The event will be held Monday, April 17 at 7:30pm, downtown at Infinity Yoga Studio, 119 W. 3rd Street, but space is limited! For more information or to sign up, contact Heather Gerdes HGerdes@winona.edu or 507-457-2225.
  • Take Back the Night: On Tuesday, April 18 at 6pm there is a SpeakOut, followed by a Rally and March in the Student Activity Center, Student Union. “Take Back the Night” raises awareness surrounding the issue of sexual violence in the community. There will be a short informational session on gender-based violence at WSU, and audience members will be invited to participate in the SpeakOut. Refreshments will be served.
  • Sensory Workshop for Survivors: On Wednesday, April 19 at 6pm FORGE will be offering a sensory workshop for survivors the day after Take Back the Night. More information can be provided later as planning for this workshop is still taking place.
  • Walk of Silence to End Violence: Come out on Sunday, April 23 at 3pm to raise awareness for gender-based violence. There will be different raffles with each ticket being $1 and all of the proceeds raised will be donated to the Women’s Resource Center – donations are welcome! Co-sponsors of this event include the KEAP Diversity CenterStudent Senate, Her Campus, Students United, FORGE, Full Spectrum, RE Initiative, Ad Fed, Women of Color Association, WGSS students and Greek Life.

There are countless ways to honor Sexual Assault Awareness Month on campus; whether it’s participating in one of the upcoming April events, becoming a peer advocate or attending a training session, everyone should be educating themselves on sexual assault. Still not sure why this month matters? Here’s why, according to staff and faculty members involved in the RE Initiative:

Sexual Assault Awareness Month offers an important opportunity to educate our campus about gender-based violence. It gives us the opportunity to hear from survivors and offer them support, to let survivors who have not reported know they are not alone, to assess our own campus and share our climate survey results, to offer prevention education, and to show we take seriously the issue of gender-based violence at WSU.

Tamara Berg, Director of Women’s Studies and Gender-Based Violence Grant Coordinator

Sexual assault is pervasive and underreported on college campuses nationwide, and changing culture is the only way to make progress. By speaking out we are giving voice to those who have been silenced for so long, creating spaces where survivors are empowered, and ultimately changing the culture. Together we take back the night.

Michael Krug, GBV Graduate Assistant for the RE Initiative

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Allison Mueller

Allison is a Journalism major and Psychology minor from Oshkosh, WI graduating in 2017. She is also the blog manager for the WSU Student Blogs. Her interests include rollerblading, hanging out with friends, playing soccer and basketball, and watching Netflix.