A time to hear, a time to heal

Sexual assault awareness week at Saint Martin’s University educates, provides support

Making T-shirts
Students at Saint Martin’s University decorate T-shirts with messages that give voice to survivors of sexual assault. Photo: Courtesy Brittany Reed

By Kate Stringer

Walking across campus this week, students at Saint Martin’s University are halted by the messages on brightly colored T-shirts hanging along pathways: “I didn’t say yes.” “You cannot take away my self-esteem.”

The shirts and their somber messages are missives from sexual assault survivors and students who support them. “When you read them you can feel the anger,” said 20-year-old junior Candice Pedroza.

The shirts are part of The Clothesline Project, one of several events during the university’s sixth annual Sexual Assault Awareness Week. The week is intended to educate students about the culture surrounding sexual assault and provide a support system for survivors.

“Every year, we try to incorporate new activities to encourage the entire Saint Martin’s and surrounding communities to adopt a pro-active, zero-tolerance culture so that we can one day eliminate these violent acts,” Laurel Dube, director of Campus Life and the event organizer, said in a news release.

The campus-wide collaboration, which grew from the efforts of a few activists in the women’s studies program, has created a cross-campus dialogue on sexual assault, said Brittany Reed, assistant director of campus life. “More people on campus are talking about sexual assault awareness and how to make our community safer and an overall more welcoming place for students and faculty alike,” Reed said.

Take Back the Night marchers
Students and community members participated in the 2013 Take Back the Night candlelight march across Saint Martin’s campus. This year’s event is April 10. Photo: Courtesy Brittany Reed

Tiffany Artime, an assistant professor of psychology at Saint Martin’s, said it’s important for universities to hold sexual assault awareness events because of the prevalence of assault on college campuses. At highest risk are women in their first six weeks of college, she said.

For this year’s awareness week, Artime’s trauma and recovery class created a proclamation for the city of Lacey recognizing April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month (it is recognized nationally in April). They also are hosting the April 11 “Walk With Me” event, a simulation allowing participants to experience the political aftermath of a sexual assault from a survivor’s perspective.

The event is meant to “show the resiliency of survivors” by telling true stories of the challenges they face after being assaulted, Artime said. The stories range from a man assaulted while deployed in the military to a woman with a developmental disability who is assaulted by a caregiver. Another goal is raising awareness “so it reduces instances of victim blaming and begins to place blame on perpetrators,” Artime said.

Through Artime’s class, Karissa Radke said, she has learned “how easy it is to fall into those myths: People are raped by strangers, they’re raped in the night, men can’t be assaulted, she wore a short skirt so she asked for it. Women should be allowed to wear anything they want and that shouldn’t mean violence because they wore it,” the 20-year-old sophomore said.

With awareness, the students hope to live in solidarity with sexual assault survivors. “I know when they come together to make those T-shirts and for Take Back the Night walk, it’s important to feel like they’re not alone,” Pedroza said. “It brings people out of the woodwork to come together and heal.”

Join the effort

These events, free and open to the public, are planned during the second half of Sexual Assault Awareness Week at St. Martin’s University:

April 9, 6-8 p.m.: Self-protection and awareness class, Trautman Union Building.

April 10, all day: Stand in Solidarity campaign; men are invited to wear white to show solidarity with all survivors of sexual assault.

April 10, 7:30 p.m.: Take Back the Night (www.takebackthenight.org) candlelight march across campus, starting at the Trautman Union Building; a joint effort of SafePlace Olympia, Saint Martin’s and the community. Refreshments afterward.

April 11, 6 p.m.: Walk With Me, a simulation of the aftermath of a sexual assault, Trautman Union Building.


April 9, 2014