Take Back the Week events focus on sexual violence awareness

by Mary Vitale and Chloe Salsameda

San Diego State is hosting a series of events revolving around sexual violence awareness and prevention this week.

Take Back the Week began Monday April 25, with a resource expo along Centennial Walkway.

Dozens of organizations, including the Women’s Resource Center and the Counseling and Social Change Club set up information booths to connect with students and spread awareness. One organization focuses especially on the healing process, and addresses it through creative expression.

Heartfelt Voices United is an organization that was established in 2011 by Suzanne Morse, who identified this organization as one that, “brings awareness to violence against women such as domestic and sexual violence along with bullying.”

What sets this organization apart from many others is that this group provides healing for victims through arts such as music, creative writing, art, performances and film as well.

The group puts on many theatrical performances and makes short films as a way to spread awareness and help those in the healing process. Heartfelt Voices United casts victims and non-victims in their plays as a way of not only raising awareness to themselves and the public, but also to provide a safe environment for those who are healing from any of these horrible causes. Suzanne explained, “Everything we do has a twist or something upbeat that people can take or learn from this and we try to emphasize that there is healing that comes with it also.”

 

One of Tuesday’s events focused on how to support victims of sexual assault.

FratMANners and SISSTER hosted the “Sustainable Support: Supporting Victims, Ourselves, and Each Other” presentation given by Stephanie Wade.

As a former health educator and coordinator of Frat MANners and SISSTER at SDSU, Stephanie Wade aims to teach the community about sexual assault and how to help victims who have been raped or sexually assaulted.

Throughout her presentation, Wade focused on how to support the victims of sexual assault. Because every sexual assault case is unique, Wade emphasized that “there is no right way to deal with it.”

Although each person who is sexually assaulted copes with their trauma in a different way, Wade provided a four-step process to her audience if they find themselves in need of helping a victim of sexual assault. This four-step process includes listening to the victim, believing them, providing them with resources and supporting the victim’s decisions.

Because helping a victim of sexual assault can be emotionally tolling, Wade emphasized that those who help victims should “know their role, limits, and value,” and understand that sexual violence will not end overnight.

“You need to have realistic expectations about what you can offer and what you can get done. Social change is a slow process and change will take time,” Wade said.

Nevertheless, Wade said she is confident that sexual assaults in the future can be prevented.

“Anything you can do is helpful and it matters. It’s about the little wins. We can’t often see tangible results, but our actions are tangible results,” Wade said.

Another event focused on encouraging students to take action against sexual assault.

Associated Students set up the courtyard of Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union to urge all of the students in the area to come by and take the pledge against sexual assault on Wednesday April 27. This pledge was made available online for students, family and friends to stand with SDSU to fight sexual assault on campus.

Representatives from A.S. set up a booth where students could use the laptops on hand to take the online pledge while getting additional information on SDSU’s collective efforts towards preventing sexual assault.

“This week of events is very significant for the SDSU students, faculty and staff because it’s very important to be public about the sexual assault happening on college campuses and having events, like marches and pledges, make a huge impact on our students,” A.S. representative Phu Vu said.

Freshman Angel Gonya said, “I think that the Take Back the Week events are a much needed thing on campus. After last year with all the reported cases of sexual assault and the growing number of cases in colleges everywhere people need to realize this is not a simple issue but an epidemic and it can happen to anyone. The week’s events are bringing to light a very serious issue and the groups helping are doing a wonderful job.”

Thursday was the titular “Take Back the Night” event, hosted by the Andrea O’Donnell Womyn’s Outreach Association.

The event in the union began with a speech and an open mic session where students could share their experiences. Overhead on a clothesline, an array of colorful t-shirts bore messages like “Love yourself” and “No excuse for rape.”

At 7 p.m., the group rallied and began marching around campus, holding signs and chanting.

“Claim our bodies, claim our rights, take a stand, take back the night,” they chanted.

Approximately 70 people joined the demonstration. One of them was Jennifer Rose, who is studying social work at SDSU. She brought her two sons, ages 8 and 10.

“I hope it stays with them. I feel like holding this sign – real men don’t assault women – is really powerful, and I want them to be men who respect women. I want them to be good men,” she said.

She is a member of WOA and thinks the event is important to campus.

“It’s empowering to women. It’s important that we feel strong walking through campus,” she said.

Take Back the Week concludes on Friday with a “Rape Culture and Social Change” workshop at 1 p.m., hosted by the Women’s Resource Center.

Additional reporting by news editor Jamie Ballard.

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