By: Antonio Iannetta – Layout Editor
Sexual Assault Awareness Month is in full swing at WPU, and a multitude of events have begun to occur to spread knowledge of the truth behind sexual assault.
“We do programs that bring more awareness to incident rates of sexual assault,” said Theresa Bivaletz, the campus victim services coordinator. “We do a large display on campus, we try to bring in guest speakers to talk about it.”
One of the most notable events is the Clothesline Project, an event where t-shirts are decorated with messages condemning sexual assault and spreading awareness, then strung up on campus. The event coincides with the Take a Stand Against Sexual Violence event, occurring this year at Zanfino Plaza April 11.
Bivaletz said that events are not performed by the Women’s Center themselves. According to her, the Women’s Center works alongside a variety of groups on campus to organize and mobilize the Sexual Assault Awareness Month events, and also acts year-round to assist any who would champion the cause.
“We always partner with a lot of different student organizations. So even if it’s something that’s coming directly from the Women’s Center, we’re always partnering with student clubs, whether it’s the SGA in full, or the Feminist Collective or other service departments here,”Bivaletz said.
Other events include the Take Back the Night Rally and Speak-Out, a campus-wide march occurring April 11 at 6 p.m., Kick: It’s Not How High, It’s How Strong (a one-woman play created by former Rockette Joanna Rush, occurring April 12), and panels and speeches on the horrors of sexual assault and how to get past it.
The university has a track record of hosting these events during April, and they are usually met with a positive reaction.
“When I came on board, they were already observing Sexual Assault Awareness Month as part of the university program,” said Librada Sanchez, Director of the Women’s Center at WPU. “So I continued to carry them out.”
Sanchez said that when she originally came to campus 11 years ago, the university did not have as many programs in place as it does now. However, a grant that the campus has maintained has allowed WPU to not only host more events, but also hire staff specifically dedicated to aiding victims of sexual assault and violence.
Unfortunately, events relating to sexual assault are not receiving that much attention. Despite this, the staff of the Women’s Center are optimistic.
“It depends on the events,” Bivaletz said. “Some are smaller gatherings, some are a bit larger. I’d love for all of our events to have much larger crowds, so I’d certainly say they’re on the smaller scale, but since I’ve been here they’ve been getting bigger.”
In addition to the variety of events, the university is also hosting the Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Violence, an initiative by the campus to discover student opinions on sexual assault and violence. Students may have already received an email about this survey, but Sanchez stressed the importance of taking it.
“That is so important that students actually take the survey,” Sanchez said. “We are depending on these answers to understand.”
According to Sanchez, the survey will help the Women’s Center and the university understand the nature of sexual assault on college campuses, how students think about sexual assault and what further initiatives can be taken to protect victims.
“You may not know or be a victim today, but you may witness something tomorrow,” Sanchez said. “You need to be ready.”
Information on the survey can be read at www.wpunj.edu/climatesurvey. Students are encouraged to check their student emails for a direct link to the survey itself. The Women’s Center website, http://www.wpunj.edu/womens-center/, also has lists of resources.