Kaitlyn Estopare – Staff Writer
April 2021 marks the 20th official anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) and the fourth year hosted at Benedictine University. This is a time to spread awareness, send messages about violence prevention, and show support to survivors.
Each year, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) creates different themes. Due to the shift to a virtual environment, the theme this year is “We Can Build Safe Online Spaces.” Though we may not be physically together, the goal is to get the word out about how to engage in violence prevention and how survivors can access resources.
“While there is always someone being harmed and someone doing the harm in situations of gender-based violence, oftentimes there are others who are witnessing the harm and do nothing. One of our most important tools for violence prevention is bystander intervention,” said Bernadette Ramsden, Benedictine’s Violence Against Women Act Grant Coordinator.
A new leadership certificate program for students called “Bringing in the Bystander” will talk about how people recognize harm, overcome barriers to intervening, and how to step in or speak out against harm. This event will take place on April 14th and 15th from 5-6:30 PM via Zoom.
This will be Benedictine’s third year hosting Take Back the Night at BenU. This year the event will include a Keynote Speaker from the Family Shelter Service of Metropolitan Family Services Survivor Speakers Bureau, a survivor speak out, and will end with a DJ playing empowering music so the participants can have a dance party. The event will be April 7 at 7 PM via Zoom.
Denim Day will be held on April 28. This is an international event to speak out against victim-blaming and educate people about consent. It is not about what someone is wearing, no one deserves to be assaulted. You can participate by wearing jeans and sharing photos by emailing email@example.com or posting on Instagram with #benudenimday.
The It’s On Us campaign started in 2018 to send messages that it is on all of us to stop sexual assault on campus and in our community. The campaign includes a video posted on Benedictine’s website, a poster series placed around campus, and an annual Week of Action.
“Awareness is not enough to create change. We must take action. Since we are still in a virtual environment, this year’s It’s On Us Week of Action activities will all be things people can do on their own or socially distanced with friends,” said Ramsden.
More details will be available soon, but activities will include a Virtual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, a violence prevention messaging contest with an opportunity to win prizes, and an opportunity to fill out the Campus Climate Survey.
“It is important to let individuals in our community know that if they have experienced sexual assault, they have resources. They can file a report with University Police or Title IX or seek confidential services with the University Counseling Center or call or text the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago Rape Crisis Hotline at 888-293-2080,” said Ramsden.