Sexual assault awareness month sparks conversations on various topics at MSU

April is sexual assault awareness month, and different events at Minnesota State University, Mankato, aim to encourage open conversation about the subject. These events are being put on by the Violence Awareness & Response Program at MSU, housed in the Women’s Center in the Centennial Student Union. 

This year marks 21 years of the movement, but the concept itself connects back to the Civil Rights Movement, which opened the doors for topics of sexual assault, domestic abuse, and emotional health in relationships. In more recent years, the focus has shifted from general awareness to providing resources as well as preventative matters. 

Shadow Rolan, the interim director of VARP, plans to fill the month of April with education opportunities on the subject, centered around the Teal Tuesday campaign. People can show support for victims of sexual assault by wearing a teal ribbon on their clothes, which can be picked up at the Women’s Center. 

The first planned program, which discusses consent in relationships, was scheduled to take place on April 5 but needed to be rescheduled for later in the month due to a lack of attendance. An update on the rescheduled event will be announced soon.

“It’s an hour-long program where we talk about what students believe a healthy relationship is and what they think healthy consensual sex is. We will go through different scenarios about power dynamics, relationship dynamics, and coercion dynamics,” said Rolan. 

“You can’t give consent if you are under the influence or if there is a power dynamic. You always need to have consent in a relationship; just because you have been in a relationship for ten years and it’s a yes to one thing, feelings change,” she went on to say. 

Mai Ker Thao is the graduate assistant for VARP and has a hand in many of the events for this month. 

“People often overlap established relationships with consent, and feel like there’s no need for consent. I had a person argue with me that he does not need to ask for consent from his girlfriend. I think we need to raise awareness of what consent is, and what it is not. It’s important in an environment where alcohol is involved. A lot of sexual assault issues arise when alcohol is present. Permission for one act does not mean permission for another act,” Thao said. 

In addition to the consent talk, the program will be hosting events such as boundary setting through yoga on April 12 and 26, a showing of Give Back the Night on April 13, and an event on the dining hall lawn to support victims of sexual assault.

“Consent should never be an awkward thing. We use it in our everyday lives so it should be just as normal when it comes to having sexual or romantic relationships,” said Rolan, who hopes that students can apply knowledge from this month’s events to their own life.

Header Photo: The Violence Awareness & Response Program at MSU is located in a shared space in the Women’s Center room 218. They will be hosting conversations on various topics about sexual assault throughout the month. (Julia Barton/The Reporter)

Write to Alexandra Tostrud at

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