By C. Aileen Blaine
April 1 may be known as Fool’s Day, but as the start of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, it’s no laughing matter. Several Youngstown State University departments are joining forces to spread awareness and provide resources to individuals of all genders within the campus community.
Jacob Haskins, case manager at the Division of Student Affairs, said the university is trying to call more attention to a nationwide problem.
“It’s important to realize that we are trying to improve and call attention to problems that are happening nationally,” he said. “This is not a YSU-specific thing.”
Sexual assault can be defined as — but is not limited to — any intentional, nonconsensual and/or coerced sexual contact. Physical resistance doesn’t have to occur to meet the definition, according to the university’s sexual misconduct policy. Furthermore, sexual misconduct encompasses a broad range of behaviors, including sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, voyeurism and other types of conduct that is nonconsensual or is carried out through force, threat, intimidation or coercion.
Charisse Schmidt, graduate associate for Student Advocacy and Support, said her working experience at a domestic violence shelter — as well as being a survivor herself — makes spreading awareness that much more important to her.
“I want to help, I want to be supportive,” she said. “I want to highlight our services, since a lot of people don’t know we have [resources] here for domestic violence and rape crisis. I want to get that [information] out there so that people don’t struggle by themselves.”
Approximately every 98 seconds, a form of sexual assualt occurs in the United States, according to data from the National Crime Victimization Survey. While females are statistically more likely to become victims, members of minority groups such as the LGBT community are at an increased risk.
Haskins said it’s not the responsibility of an assault survivor to educate other individuals on what sexual assault is or the impacts it has, as this can be triggering for the survivor. Education is just the first step to serving as a better ally.
“You should be seeking out information on your own, and you should be looking for events and community programs you can attend,” he said. “If you have questions, talk to people in our office who do this work, rather than relying on someone who may not be comfortable talking about their experience yet.”
Haskins and Schmidt also stress the importance of remaining inclusive and intersectional when discussing topics relating to sexual assault. Not all victims are college-aged females, and it’s important to keep in mind other groups as well. In a display titled “What Were You Wearing,” survivors’ accounts accompany a variety of outfits that go against the stereotypical associations of assault.
“In the ‘What Were You Wearing’ display, it’s not just 18- to 25-year-old women’s clothing,” Haskins said. “We’re making sure that we’re highlighting stories of people who are not the typical standard that you’re thinking.”
Of the many events running on campus this month, Haskins said the screening of the documentary “The Hunting Ground” is a demonstrative way to lend insight to the implications of sexual assault.
“‘The Hunting Ground’ is eye-opening. Whenever I first saw it, it was a game changer,” he said.
The university will provide clinical mental health professionals and resources at all in-person events, helping survivors to debrief or to assist in the reporting process. Additionally, those interested in sharing personal accounts can do so anonymously via a QR code emailed by the Office of the Dean of Students on March 23.
Upcoming scheduled events for April are as follows:
- The Dos and Donuts of Dating Table: 11 a.m.–12 p.m. April 5, upstairs lobby of Kilcawley Center
- One Love Workshop: 11 a.m.–1 p.m. April 11, Rossi Room in Kilcawley Center
- Let’s Talk Consent Table: 11 a.m.–2 p.m. April 12, upstairs lobby of Kilcawley Center
- “The Hunting Ground” documentary screening: 7 p.m. April 15, Cafaro Multipurpose Room
- Active Bystander Table: 11 a.m.–2 p.m. April 19, upstairs lobby of Kilcawley Center
- Take Back the Night Poster-Making: 11 a.m.–2 p.m. April 26, upstairs lobby of Kilcawley Center
- Take Back the Night: 6–8 p.m. April 29, Rossi Room in Kilcawley Center
All-day or ongoing events include:
- Denim Day: April 27
- Teal Tuesdays
- What Were You Wearing?
- Survivor Stories
- The Clothesline Project: April 18–23
The National Sexual Assault Hotline is available at 1-800-656-4673. Individuals are also welcome to contact the after-hours hotline through Student Counseling Services. Additional resources and guidance are available through the university’s Title IX FAQ page at ysu.edu/title-ix/faq