Sexual Assault Awareness Month was first observed nationally in 2001 after several decades of the rising tides of feminism and female activism. Several events to highlight the month are planned at Orange Coast College from April 22 through 26.
SAAM is coordinated nationally every year by the National Sexual Violence Research Center with the goal of raising public awareness about sexual violence, educate communities on how to prevent it and bolster prevention efforts throughout the year.
This year’s theme, “I Ask,” focuses on the importance of consent in everyday interactions. The research center hopes the campaign will normalize the conversation around consent.
“Sexual Assault Awareness Month isn’t just about awareness. Our ultimate goal is prevention,” Yolanda Edrington, executive director of the NSVRC said in a press release. “The ‘I Ask’ campaign is a great way to normalize conversations around consent and to empower everyone to ask,” she continued.
The research center has resources on recognizing and giving consent in both online and in-person interactions, how to teach consent beginning in early childhood and how power dynamics effect sexual violence.
Tuesday was the National Day of Action where supporters were encouraged to wear teal in solidarity with victims and survivors.
At Orange Coast College, events for SAAM are coordinated by the Title IX office in conjunction with the Student Health Center, the Associated Students of Orange Coast College and several student clubs. Title IX is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program.
A variety of events will be held the week of April 22 to 26 and will provide students with resources and support around sexual or domestic violence related issues.
The Clothesline Project will be on display in the Quad from April 22 through April 25. The project started in Massachusetts in the 1960s when a women’s group learned that in the same time period, nearly as many American women were killed in sexual or domestic violence as American soldiers in the Vietnam War.
During the event shirts are created by the survivors or in honor of someone who has experienced violence.
“The intent was to reclaim a voice, to shape the narrative — to provide a space to have these sorts of discussions and make this type of awareness available,’ said Shannon Quihiuz, Associate Dean of Title IX and Student Relations. “It’s a visual demonstration to bring a voice.”
Most of the events of the week will be featured on April 26.
There will be a Health and Resources Fair put on by the Title IX office along with the Student Health Center, ASOCC and student clubs like Amnesty International and the Intersectional Feminist Club. Free HIV testing will also be available.
That same day in the Quad will be Denim Day, which began in 1999 when the Italian Supreme Court overturned a rape conviction on the basis that the victim had been wearing tight jeans.
The next day, women in the Italian Parliament wore jeans in solidarity with the victim. Supporters are encouraged to wear jeans on April 24 to support victims and survivors. A photo will be taken of participants in the Quad at noon.
On April 26, the Global Engagement Center will host Green Dot Bystander Awareness training from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
“It’s giving students an opportunity to develop skills when they potentially witness a harmful situation,” Quihiuz said. “If folks are interested in being part of a solution to actively engage in ways to mitigate power based violence, this will be the opportunity.”
Quihuiz encourages students to sign up via the Title IX page of the OCC website.
“This is not a one month issue,” said Quizhuiz.
The Title IX office and the Student Health Center have resources to help students with issues ranging from sexual stalking behaviors like excessive texting to things like partner violence and sexual abuse.
“I usually hear about sexual assault happening in big cities like LA, but when you hear about sexual assault survivors within my community, it makes me more aware of how ongoing it is,” Wendy Pascal, a 19-year-old biology major said. “I don’t think body language is enough. I think you need a verbal consent for anything. You shouldn’t have to persuade someone into saying yes.”