Sexual Assault Awareness Month began on Tuesday with a tabling event in the Newman Vertical Campus’s second floor lobby. Run by the Health and Wellness Center, the event educated students on what sexual assault and intimate partner abuse are, how to recognize sexual assault and intimate partner abuse, and what may be done if one experiences either.
The official website for Sexual Assault Awareness Month reports that one in every five women will be sexually assaulted in college, as will one in every 16 men. The Health and Wellness Center understands some of the stigma that sexual assault survivors face and wishes to teach students about what challenges victims face.
“We’re hoping to raise awareness on how to identify what sexual assault and intimate partner violence is and how to put an end to it, and there’s also a stigma [surrounding] talking about it, so we aim to create an environment where we can openly discuss sexual assault issues and end this stigma that survivors are burdened with,” said Sherley Santell, acting assistant director of health and wellness. “We [also] want to spread awareness of what consent [is].”
Some goals the Health and Wellness Center hopes to accomplish with Sexual Assault Awareness Month are, “encouraging students to pledge not to participate in street harassment or any kind of unwanted interactions and to reach out to as many students as possible throughout our events this month,” said Santell.
The tabling promoted these ideas, handing out informational brochures, having students sign a pledge to seek consent in sexual situations and giving out ribbons for students to wear in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Two Baruch students working for the Health and Wellness Center were also on hand at the table to answer student questions.
Eileen Makak, a graphic communications major and member of Peers Advocating Wellness Services, stressed the importance of sexual assault awareness for Baruch students living in the Third Avenue Residence Hall.
“People believe that [Baruch] is strictly a commuter school, which isn’t true. We do have a residence hall. So for those residents, it’s especially important to understand sexual assault awareness.”
She went on to explain that awareness of sexual assault was pertinent to all Baruch students’ lives, and that no one can be immune to the chance of sexual assault.
“In our general lives, sexual assault can happen to anyone at any period in their life so it’s especially important to recognize it now … It’s so important to know what it is, how to prevent it from happening, and what to do afterward, what are your options, and what kind of routes you can take on campus and outside of campus.”
Jenna Phillips, an international business major and fellow member of P.A.W.S., was also available to answer questions at the event. She agreed with Makak, saying that awareness of sexual assault was important in the daily lives of Baruch students.
“Just knowing what sexual assault is [is important], because some people might have been sexually assaulted, or might be engaging in sexually assaulting someone else and might not even quite realize … so it’s really important to educate people and make sure that nobody gets hurt, and sex can be safe and fun,” said Phillips.
Phillips also described the ill effects sexual assault may have on a victims’ psyche, pushing them into depression.
“We want to make sure that people know there are resources out there [to help them]. There’s support for them.”
Sexual Assault Awareness Month at Baruch is being supported in part by the Day One campaign, an organization the Health and Wellness Center has been working with in preparation for the coming events. Day One is dedicated to “help[ing] young people recognize signs of abusive relationships, so that they can make healthier choices from day one of dating.”
The table’s brochures were created by Day One, with topics like intimate partner violence, sexual assault and consent all being covered.
One brochure called, “What is Sexual Assault,” provided the definitions of each term, as well as a clear set of criteria on what could constitute as sexual assault and statutory rape.
It repeated multiple times that the victim of sexual assault is never at fault, and the brochure ended with helpful guidelines if one is sexually assaulted. Those guidelines include calling the NYPD Special Victims hotline and going to a medical facility immediately.
A second brochure, “Safe on Campus,” discussed sexual assault in a campus setting. It explained the different modes of dating abuse and how one might involve a college in stopping it, whether that be talking to a campus counselor or going to Campus Safety.
The P.A.W.S. students also gave out fliers outlining how the month was going to progress, with different workshops and events happening in honor of sexual assault awareness all throughout April.
Throughout this month, the Health and Wellness Center seeks to establish a conversation within the Baruch community surrounding sexual assault and hopes to better educate the student body at large on how consent is paramount to these issues.