VARP gives voice to sexual assault and violence

April will include talks, events, and ways to stand up against sexual assault

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month throughout the United States and in an effort to show community support for sexual assault awareness, Minnesota State University, Mankato has scheduled a series of events throughout the month that are intended to raise public awareness about sexual violence.

“We work to raise awareness of sexual assault,” said Laura Schultz, assistant director of the violence awareness and response program (VARP), about this month. “How often it happens in our community, what we can do for friends or family members who may have experienced these forms of violence and starting to think about what we can do to change the culture in which sexual violence is common.”

This year’s national theme for sexual awareness month is “Embrace Your Voice,” in order to promote safety, respect, and equality.

There are many ways to embrace one’s voice, from practicing or providing consent to speaking out against stereotypes or gender biases. This campaign will provide the tools and resources needed for individuals and communities to take actual steps toward ending sexual violence once and for all. This starts with recognizing the power of one’s voice.

The events happening include training that requires basic information about sexual violence, stalking, and sexual harassment, Skype Q and A with the filmmaker of the “Unsettled Selves” story-telling project, rallies, marches, and more.

These events will be focusing on issues such as catcalling and street harassment. The goal of it is bringing awareness to the problem of street harassment and offer solutions for preventing this form of harassment.

MNSU’s Women’s Center hosts four conversation circles every semester. This is an opportunity to have an open and important discussion on topics related to intimate partner violence/relationship abuse. Take Back the Night is a rally and march that calls to end sexual violence against women and all others affected by it. This event will take place on Tuesday, April 24, starting at the Coffee Hag in Mankato at 5 p.m. All are welcome and encouraged to participate.

Another interesting event taking place is Denim Day on Wednesday, April 25. In the 1990s, an 18-year-old girl was forcefully raped in Italy. The 45-year-old perpetrator was convicted of rape and sentenced to jail. However, the Italian Supreme Court dismissed the case because the victim wore very, very tight jeans, she had to help him remove them, and by removing the jeans it was no longer rape but consensual sex, said Schultz. Within a matter of hours women in the Italian Supreme Court took immediate action and protested by wearing jeans to work.

The protest has continued every year since and has become known as Denim Day. On this day, women all wear jeans as a visible means of protest against rape myths and victim-blaming. Women at MNSU are encouraged to come together in front of the CSU Ballroom on this day at noon for a photo.

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