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Sexual Assault Awareness Month Events Hope to Shed Light on Difficult Campus Issue

The Women*s Center is hosting various events on campus this April as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), a national event that the Women*s Center participates in annually.

“For us, it’s a month where we can do some really dedicated programming around the topic of sexual assault and awareness education,” said Qui Alexander, Program Coordinator at the Women*s Center.

This year, the Women*s Center is hosting three main events on campus: the clothesline project, Speak Out, and Take Back the Night.

The clothesline project is an event in which survivors of sexual assault can decorate t-shirts about their experiences. During the first week of April, the Women*s Center hung these t-shirts on a clothesline outside Gummere.

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The Clothesline Project, courtesy of the Women*s Center

“I think [the clothesline project] showed that [sexual assault] is an issue that affects a lot of people on campus and a lot of people don’t really share their stories often and don’t really feel like they have the space to, so it provides this anonymous space for people to share their stories in a way they may not have access to otherwise,” said Alexander.

According to Alexander, SpeakOut will also offer survivors a space to share their experiences. SpeakOut is structured like pluralism and is open only to students. Alexander encourages allies to come as well to support their peers.

“Even if you don’t think that this happens at Haverford, or you don’t know anybody who has had this experience, it could be a really eye-opening experience to come hear some of the stuff that’s happening and help be in better solidarity with the people in your community,” said Alexander.

SpeakOut will be held on April 21 at 9:30 p.m. in Founders Common Room.

SAAM also includes Take Back the Night, an event during which students gather at the apartments and march across campus to the Women*s Center. According to Alexander, the idea of the march is to “ ‘take back’ the spaces where assaults may have happened on campus.”

Take Back the Night will be held on April 24 at 7 p.m.

Other organizations on campus have also created events to address issues of sexual assault, although they are not officially part of SAAM. For example, last Thursday, Feminists United (FU) and Honor Council held a conversation about boundary violation.

“I think it’s really great that lots of different avenues on campus are tackling this issue, because then it helps us feel like this is actually a community-driven response,” said Alexander.

According to FU member Tess Oberholtzer ‘19, students at the boundary violation discussion focused on ways to make changes, specifically with regard to the sexual assault reporting process.

“We had the goal of [the discussion] not to be a Speak Out type of space for personal experiences, but more to have comments already be distilled from personal experiences and with a mind towards creating change,” said Oberholtzer.

The group will send the ideas they generated to students. There will be another meeting next week and the group hopes to propose these changes to the faculty shortly after that.

This year, there have been various issues related to sexual assault on campus. In November, the Sexual Assault Climate Survey found many areas where Haverford students polled higher than other college students, such as sexual assault awareness and perceptions of campus safety. However, the study also found that a smaller percentage of Haverford students think that “there is a good support system to help students through difficult times.”

In December, there was controversy over a survey sent by FU. The survey, called “Fucked Up Shit Happens Here Too,” was intended to gauge students’ experiences with sexual assault. However, many students objected to the way the organization presented the survey, and some students expressed their frustration on Yik Yak.

Recently, FU began a poster campaign to address the comments on Yik Yak.

“We decided to not just let it slide, because we think that Yik Yak’s anonymity gives people a lot of power to hurt people,” said Oberholtzer. “Even though it seemed like it was water under the bridge, we really didn’t want that to happen and we wanted to make sure that people knew that their comments had been heard and were hurtful and completely out of line.”