The Importance of Sexual Assault Awareness Month

By: Adriana Miranda

TW: sexual assault, violence

Did you know that 1 in every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape? But this doesn’t just affect women. Men who are students and 18-24 years old are FIVE times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than men of the same age who are not students. Transgender, genderqueer and nonconforming (TGQN) students are also at higher risk than other college students (source for all of these here). And these are just reported cases; who knows how much larger the number is for people who don’t ever talk about their assault? That being said, SA is something that affects us all. If you have friends who are women or TGQN, there’s a high chance they’ve experienced some form of SA. If you have male friends there is a chance they’ve experienced the same.

This is why SA Awareness Month (SAAM) exists. It’s a time for us to come together to raise awareness and to take action against sexual assault.

The Women’s Center is dedicated to spreading awareness about SA and this SAAM. As part of our programming, we participated in Denim Day on April 26, 2022. Denim Day began as the result of a court case that victim-blamed a woman for her assault. Why? The Italian Supreme Court ruled that her jeans were too tight for her rapist to remove by himself, so she must have helped remove them.  This past Wednesday, we also shared a“What Were They Wearing” display to share the stories of SA victims, heard from a survivor speaker, and finished out the event with healing arts and snacks as a break from the heavy subject matter.

 

“But What Were You Wearing?”

By: Sierra Voorhies

Trigger Warning: rape culture, victim blaming, and sexual assault. 

I’m not quite sure how to start this blog, but I think I will start with the phrase, “What were they wearing?” This is a common question that has been asked in cases of rape and sexual assault, and it perpetuates and supports rape culture. Rape culture is “the belief that victims have contributed to their own victimization and are responsible for what has happened to them” (University of New Hampshire SHARPP). The question “What were you wearing?” implies that someone’s outfit could consent for them to sexual acts, but no matter what someone is wearing, clothing – slutty, provocative, or skimpy – does not give consent for the wearer. Behind this question is the idea that there is some dress, jeans, or some outfit that could make the victim actually the one culpable for the crime against them because they are somehow “asking for it”.

By asking a victim of rape or sexual assault this question, one is placing the blame back on the victim for the crime perpetrated against them. Imagine asking someone, “Why were you wearing that watch? What were you doing in that suit?” This is an outrageous and illogical question,  because it’s obvious in this scenario that the victim does not hold any of the blame for the crime done against them. The same thought must be applied to victims of sexual assault.

In order to bring awareness and growth to the UMKC community, the Women’s Center is doing a display called “What Were They Wearing?” full of outfits that were worn by people when they were assaulted. This display will show how rape culture and victim blaming are part of the rape myth. You can join us on Wednesday April 27 from 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. on the second floor of the Student Union, as well as Thursday, April 28 to see the display and get connected with more information. 

Thank you for supporting our programming during Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Sexual Assault Awareness Month

IMG_2094By Kacie Otto

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The Women’s Center and the UMKC Violence Prevention and Response project have taken a few opportunities this month to raise awareness and support survivors.

Today, we hosted a Sexual Assault Awareness Month table in the Atterbury Student Success Center. Students could stop by our table and pick up information about what to do if they have been sexually assaulted and need resources on campus. Students could also create a shrink art key chain, which stands as a reminder that they can help end sexual violence.

I hope this event and others like it can help students see that the Women’s Center is a safe space for them if they’ve experienced sexual violence.

Denim Day

2015-Demin-Day-Drive-Flier-Arzie-editsEviteBy Kemora Williams

Did you know that the month of April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month? Do you know what Denim Day is? Well, in Italy during the 1990s an 18 year old girl was raped by her 45 year old driving instructor. The case against the instructor was overturned and dismissed because the Chief Judge argued, “because the victim wore very, very tight jeans, she had to help him remove them, and by removing the jeans it was no longer rape but consensual sex.”

The women in the Italian Parliament were so upset with the ruling that within hours they took action and protested by wearing jeans to work. In April 1999, the first Denim Day was held in Los Angeles.

For Sexual Assault Awareness Month and in honor of Denim Day, the Women’s Center is hosting a Denim Day Drive for the entire month of April. Join this sexual violence prevention and education campaign and make a social statement by donating used denim to the Women’s Center. The drop off bins for your used denim are located at the Women’s Center, Oak Place Apartments, Johnson Residence Hall, and Oak Street Residence Hall. We’ll re-purpose your old denim by making them into visual displays that bear witness to sexual violence.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, And for Good Reason.

By: Amanda Johnson

We hosted a Denim Day table on April 23 as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

We hosted a Denim Day table on April 23 as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Every 2 minutes, someone is sexually assaulted in the United States. Nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 22 men will experience sexual violence in their lifetime; 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men experience rape in their lifetime. Think about all the people you know- think about your family and friends. Does this startle you?

Unfortunately, reality paints a darker picture than what these numbers say. We live in a world where victims are prosecuted, where by-standers capture rape on their phone for laughs rather than for evidence, and where rapes go unreported and rapists go free. Why is it that, in a culture that knows rape is wrong, it is so prevalent?

Sexual violence isn’t comprised of a series of isolated events perpetrated by individuals. It’s engrained in our culture. As scholar Thomas Macaulay Millar wrote, “It takes one rapist to commit a rape, but it takes a village to create an environment where it happens over and over and over.” This is a culture where sexual violence is a normal occurrence and rape can be used as a humorous term- where rape victims can “deserve it.”

I’d rape her,” is defined by the Urban Dictionary as synonymous with “I’d tap that.”

Those Broncos got raped at the Super Bowl, amiright?

No. No. No.

Rape isn’t tantamount to losing a game. It isn’t a term to use when you find someone attractive.

The lines are being blurred between what constitutes condoned and consensual behavior and what sexual violence really is. In a survey of high school students, 56% of girls and 76% of boys believed forced sex was acceptable under some circumstances. It turns out, when you replace the word ‘rape’ with ‘forced sex,’ a lot more individuals will admit to committing it, being victims of it, and finding it acceptable under certain conditions. We are a culture that normalizes rape, yet, we don’t even seem to understand what it means.

Throughout the last 10 years, the National Crime Victimization Survey has reported that only approximately 30% of rape survivors report the incident to the police. Of those rapes reported to the police only 16% result in prison sentences. This means that only 5% of the time, a man who rapes ends up in prison. Unfortunately, when looking at institutions like university campuses, the numbers get even worse. The Justice Department estimates that even fewer than 5% of completed and attempted rapes of college women are reported to law enforcement officials. This number is even more staggering when you consider that 1 in 4 women will be the victim of sexual violence during her academic career. In these instances, 9 out of 10 women knew their attacker.

Despite the increased prevalence and need for victim services, universities most often  lack adequate policies and fail to provide for victims of sexual assault. The Campus Accountability Project, started by Students Active For Ending Rape (SAFE), showed the sad deficiencies in adequate sexual assault policies. Over 80% of policies received a C or below, with none making a grade higher than a B+. Nearly one-third of the policies didn’t comply with federal regulations, and only 40% had a dedicated full-time staff member dedicated to sexual assault prevention and education. In a world where victims are prosecuted, less than one-third of the policies stated that a victim’s dress and past sexual history are relevant during investigation.

In recent years, many universities have gone under fire for directly mishandling or covering up cases of rape and sexual assault- many times making national headlines such as Harvard and Yale. Some, such as Dartmouth, have even seen a decline in applications because of the negative attention. It’s time for universities to take a stand against sexual assault and provide the responsiveness that victims deserve.

We ended Sexual Assault Awareness Month with Walk A Mile in Her Shoes, a Men's March to end rape and sexual assault.

We ended Sexual Assault Awareness Month with Walk A Mile in Her Shoes, a Men’s March to end rape and sexual assault.

Tides are starting to turn though. Fortunately, this year, President Obama has issued a task force to directly deal with sexual assault on college campuses, and Sen. Claire McCaskill has conducted national surveys on the issue and has lead a bipartisan effort through the legislature to combat sexual assault in the military and now on college campuses. This effort is aimed at implementing new regulations that force campuses to adopt and change policies. Moreover, it seeks to provide additional resources to help universities be able to provide crucial services for those affected by sexual violence.

Many campuses have already made a stride towards victim services as well as prevention. Thankfully, the University of Missouri-Kansas City is one such school. It offers many services and support on campus for victims, awareness, and prevention. The UMKC Women’s Center and the Violence Prevention and Response Project seek to strengthen the university and community response to gender-based and sexual violence. Together, and in collaboration with other campus and community offices, the Women’s Center and Violence Prevention and Response Project provide vital training and education on prevention and response, resources and services for those affected by sexual violence including a safe place, referral information. Unlike many universities, UMKC offers a full time Victim Services Adjudication Advisor, Michelle Kroner. Her office, as well as the women’s center, is available to any student.

Now, more than ever, it’s important to remain active and to raise your voice against sexual assault. Sexual assault and rape has received national attention because of people like you. What UMKC and other institutions are doing is significant progress. But, it’s not a fix. Not yet. Remember, 1 is 2 many. If my article makes you uncomfortable: good. Be a person who seeks to change the system instead of ignoring it. Don’t be complicit. We can end the culture that perpetuates rape.

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Author’s Note: Violence against women is a larger narrative than what simple statistics have to offer. It’s a culture that extends worldwide. It’s a world where one in three women will be raped in their lifetime- where sexual violence is more guaranteed than an education.

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Resources:

SAAM Neighbor

By Bethany Reyna

Image c/o Flickr.com

For my Public Speaking class this semester we had to write a speech commemorating someone or something. During my speech I talked about all of the big events that the Women’s Center puts on, with an emphasis on Sexual Assault Awareness Month and specifically Take Back the Night. When I was finished presenting, a classmate asked me why I cared so much. She wanted to know if there was a specific reason why I did this and why I chose to work at the Women’s Center. At first I had to think about it. I knew this cause was something I had always cared about, but I couldn’t think of a specific reason. By the end of the class though, I had remembered an experience with my next-door neighbor growing up.

*Walter and his wife Ruth had four kids. Two were close to my age and there were also two older girls. They were all homeschooled, so I thought of them as my “home friends” as opposed to my “school friends”.  According to my mother, I wasn’t allowed inside their house for more than a few hours because she and my stepdad thought that Walter and Ruth were a little strange.

The year I turned ten, Walter was arrested for raping two 12 year old girls. When my mother told me who one of the girls was, I vaguely matched a face to a girl who rode the same school bus as me. I remembered her being mean and unpleasant, but at that moment I felt terrible. I thought about how she must have felt when it happened and then how she felt now that Walter had been arrested. I had never really thought of her as being strong, but I remember thinking that it must have taken a lot of strength to tell someone and to talk about what had happened, especially at just 12 years old. As I write this I can still picture what her house looked like in my head and how I would drive by on the bus or ride by on my bike and wonder what she was thinking or how she was feeling at that very moment.

Girls like this are the reason why I want to work for organizations like the Women’s Center and the Violence Prevention and Response Project. I like knowing that the events that we put on may help girls either come forward with their stories, or be more likely to report sexual assault incidents in the future. We help raise awareness to help girls that are in these situations and don’t know what to do about it. I feel better knowing that an article I post, retweet or review may positively influence someone to tell their story or seek help for themselves or for someone that is important in their life. If you are interested in volunteering at the UMKC Women’s Center, please stop by 105 Haag Hall or email us at umkc-womens-center@umkc.edu.

*The names have been changed in this story to protect their actual identities.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

By Devon White

Image c/o Flickr.com

 

The month of April marks the  Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) national campaign. The primary goal of SAAM is to raise awareness and educate the public about the realities of sexual violence. According to the SAAM website, the 2011 campaign will explore “common, everyday behaviors and offers individuals viable, responsible ways to intervene.” Since early intervention can reduce the number of sexual violence victimizations and consequences, preventative education is essential for advocates, bystanders and those at risk.

Throughout the month of April, the UMKC Violence & Prevention Response Project will be promoting SAAM with a variety of informative events and resources. If you’re looking to get involved or want to learn more about sexual assault prevention, here are a few important dates that you should mark on your calendar:

Take Back the Night: Wednesday, April 20th – Join us for the sixth annual Take Back the Night march and rally, an event designed to unify women, men, and children in an awareness of violence against women, children, and families. This proactive event is sponsored by the UMKC Violence Prevention and Response Project.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month Information Tables: Thursday, April 28th – The VPR team will be at the Health Sciences Building with information about sexual assault, how to deal with it, or help a friend deal with it. There will also be information about campus and community resources available. Check it out!

Denim Day Display, Thursday, April 21st & Denim Day: Thursday, April 28th – This sexual violence prevention and education campaign, asks everyone to make a social statement with their fashion by wearing jeans as a visible means of protest against the misconceptions surrounding sexual assault. To learn more about the origins of Denim Day, visit the national campaign website.

These SAAM event dates may be set in stone, but the work to end sexual violence is an ongoing effort that involves policy makers, victim advocates and community-based support. If you’re looking for more ways on how you can get involved visit: UMKC’s Violence & Prevention Response Project and the SAAM official website.