This month, HOPE in conjunction with ROTC, VOX: Voices for Planned Parenthood, and the Haven will present Sexual Assault Awareness Month at William and Mary – a time “dedicated to support and healing for survivors,” according to the William and Mary Sexual Assault Awareness Month website.
“We are working with ROTC and Someone You Know to do a photo campaign in support of survivors of sexual assault,” HOPE President Kelly Gorman ’16 said in an email. “We are also working with a new alumni group called W&M ASAP (Alumni for Sexual Aggression Prevention) to put on a collaborative workshop about bystander intervention for fraternity men.”
This week, HOPE will sponsor an event called Love on the Rocks, which will discuss alcohol and consent. HOPE will also be hosting a speed dating night to encourage people to talk to each other with respect. Dates will not be separated by gender or sexual orientation. The last public event this month is called Take Back the Night and will take place April 23. Survivors of sexual assault are welcome to submit their stories to HOPE, which leaders of HOPE will read in an effort to put a face to the discussion that has been going on all month.
“Sexual assault affects everyone and it is happening right now within our own community,” Gorman said. “It is only with the collective action of every member of the student body and William and Mary community in general that we can end sexual assault and create a place where everyone feels safe.”
For VOX’S part in the event, they will be sponsoring performances of the Vagina Monologues. Also, VOX is partnering with LAMBDA for Street Harassment Awareness Week. This strives to raise awareness about how the attitudes that lead to street harassment are the same attitudes that lead to sexual assault.
“[Sexual Assault Awareness Week] is about raising awareness, changing cultural attitudes and changing policy,” Vice-President of VOX, Haven volunteer, and HOPE Healthy Relationships Committee Member Taylor Medley ’17 said. “It’s about raising awareness and understanding. Just about having these conversations. A lot of people may not have heard of the phrase ‘rape culture’. When you have these conversations people don’t know what this means and so they don’t pay attention.”
HOPE also worked to draw negative attention to a proposed state law that would force sexual assault victims and the people they go to report their case to the police. VOX is also concerned with policy changes.
“I’m more interested in changing policy, more specifically how those accused of sexual assault are left with a slap on the wrist, leaving the victim on campus with the attacker,” Jacob Alter’17, LAMBDA co-president, said in an email. “However, I think that policy change at W&M is going to be a tough nut to crack. For example, it’s very widely believed that the only reason the Haven was approved was due to outside pressure due to the leaking of the Sigma Chi email.”
Ultimately, these organizations expressed a common hope to support survivors of sexual assault.
“We want the community to come together in support of survivors,” Gorman said. “We want to start conversations and dialogue that can challenge our community to be better and more supportive than it currently is. Ultimately, our goal is to create a campus where survivors are safe, loved, and supported.”
Flat Hat News Editor KJ Moran contributed to this story.