The Center for Victim Advocacy and Violence Prevention aims to encourage allyship and support through a lineup of nine virtual and in-person events prepared for the month of April to commemorate Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Events planned for the month were organized by the center’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month committee, an organization of students, faculty and staff across all campuses.
Danielle Smith, manager of the Violence Prevention Program and the committee, said the center intends for these events to provide survivors with support and resources, raise awareness and educate individuals on how to prevent sexual violence within their communities.
“I think it’s important to normalize this conversation, and it’s really important to destigmatize seeking help and being there for one another,” she said.
The Sexual Assault Awareness Month events will entail a number of free opportunities for students, from violence intervention training to panel discussions.
Having a mix of online and in-person gatherings ensured that the month’s events would remain accessible to all students, according to Smith. With some events being held on Microsoft Teams, students who live farther away from campus or are attending school online can still participate.
In virtual sessions such as “Real Talk: Let’s Get it On” and the “Consent & Chill Discussion,” students will discuss healthy relationships, consent and sexual wellness.
These discussions will be facilitated by panelists from the USF Counseling Center, SWELL USF Health and the Center for Victim Advocacy and Violence Prevention.
The Sexual Assault Awareness Month Exhibition will open April 18 and last until April 28 in the Marshall Student Center (MSC) Centre Gallery, Smith said.
An open mic event will take place during the opening reception of the exhibit from 7-8 p.m. During the open mic, student artists will perform creative pieces on the topic of sexual violence using poetry, spoken word and other standing performances.
Following its opening, the exhibit will showcase a variety of student art pieces pertaining to the topic of sexual violence. Smith said the exhibit is meant to provide artists and viewers alike with a space to share their stories of sexual violence and healing and share a message of empowerment and allyship.
Smith also encouraged students to attend the annual Take back the Night event. This year’s will be the first since the start of the pandemic.
Take Back the Night will take place April 19 from 7-10 p.m. in the MSC Amphitheater. It is meant to honor survivors of sexual assault by providing a safe space for them to publicly speak out about their experiences and healing process. A silent walk and guided meditation will also be held during the evening.
Anyone can speak out during the event, either in person or anonymously. Stories can be submitted on the Center for Victim Advocacy and Violence Prevention website, but Smith emphasized that attendees could speak out at any time.
Allyship participation will also be promoted during the month. USF will be observing National Denim Day on April 27, an occasion that bolsters awareness and education on victim-blaming.
The center encouraged students to protest the harmful misconceptions surrounding sexual violence and show their support for survivors of sexual assault.
“It’s so important to increase accessibility for resources, increase awareness and come together as a campus community to really show that allyship for one another, for the survivors and show that support and care,” Smith said. “I think it’s going to be a really healing time, and really powerful.”