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Sexual Assault Awareness Month events aim to educate students

As part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Lehigh University’s Women’s Center and its Gender and Violence group are partnering with various campus offices and organizations to present a series of events that Sexual Violence Prevention Coordinator Steve McAllister hopes will “spark dialogue between friends, challenge students to educate themselves, and inspire people to act when they witness a potentially dangerous situation.”

This year’s events include the “Sex Signals” program; a speech by sexual assault survivor Rachel Griffin, a “Take Back the Night” march dedicated to the memory of Jeanne Clery, the Clothesline Project, the White Ribbon Campaign, and a banner project in which each Greek house will make a banner with an anti-rape/anti-violence message.

McAllister says that before a person can become a part of the solution, they must first understand how their behaviors, language and attitude may contribute to the problem.

“Everyone in the Lehigh community has a friend or loved one who has experienced some form of sexual violence,” he says. “I hope these events will inspire students to learn more about sexual violence.”

To choose the events for this year’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month, students from across Lehigh’s campus came together to form the Sexual Assault Awareness Month committee.

Committee members, says McAllister, researched nationally known programs and selected events based on feedback from other universities, recommendations from Lehigh students who had attended programs at national conferences, and on the basis of whether they thought Lehigh students would be receptive to the presentation’s style and message.

“At Lehigh and every college campus, healthy relationships and dating habits are a huge concern,” says Marjan Maghbouleh ’08, a journalism major and co-chair of Lehigh University’s Women’s Center’s Gender and Violence working group. “Most of our programs this year focus on those issues that pertain to young adults specifically.”

“Sex Signals”, a program that blended a unique combination of improvisational comedy, education, and audience participation kicked off Sexual Assault Awareness Month on April 3 with a provocative look at the issues of dating, sex, and ultimately, acquaintance rape on college campuses. The two-person show explored how mixed messages, gender role stereotypes, and unrealistic fantasies contribute to misunderstandings between the sexes. The event was co-sponsored by the InterFraternity and Panhellenic Councils, and the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs.

Rachel Griffin, a courageous and inspiring sexual assault survivor will speak on Monday, April 10 at 7 p.m. in Neville 01 (Auditorium).

Griffin, known as a passionate voice for advocacy, was sexually assaulted by a trusted friend as a high school student. After staying silent for five years, Griffin decided to reach out for help.

McAllister has known Griffin for many years, having worked with her when they were both students at Central Michigan University, and says that her presentation will put a face on an issue that is too often thought of in the form of statistics.

“Rachel’s story,” he says, “is an example of how a person can begin to heal from a sexual assault when she or he is brave enough to seek help and is met with unconditional support.”

Anne Rapson ’06, a finance major and co-chair of the Gender and Violence working group, says that Griffin will bring a whole new perspective on sexual violence that has not been at Lehigh in a long time.

“I think it is important for people to come to this event so they can put another face with the cause,” says Rapson. “Rachel is someone that is just like any Lehigh student and she has decided to stand up for what she believes in.”

Other Sexual Assault Awareness Month events scheduled include:

“Take Back the Night”, Tuesday, April 11
Starting at Lookout Point
Beginning at 7 p.m., the “Take Back the Night” march, in memory of Jeanne Clery, a Lehigh University student who was raped and murdered on-campus on April 5, 1986.

Buses leave from Taylor Gym, Drown, and Fairmart at 6:30 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. There will be a Speak Out after in Lower Cents. (Rain location: TBD). This year marks the 20th anniversary of the murder of Jeanne Clery, a Lehigh University student. On April 5, 1986, Jeanne was brutally raped and murdered in her residence hall room. This year’s “Take Back the Night” march has been dedicated to Jeanne's memory.

The march will begin at the Lookout Point, and conclude at the memorial plaque dedicated to Jeanne Clery outside Stoughton Hall. A brief memorial and an opportunity for students to speak out against violence against women will follow the march. Co-sponsored by Theta Chi.

Clothesline Project, April 3-April 28
Upper University Center
The Clothesline project will be displayed throughout the month of April in the dining area of the Upper University Center. Survivors of sexual violence have made t-shirts representing their trauma, healing, and hope. Students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to witness the courage possessed by these survivors and their loved ones.

White Ribbon Campaign: Men against Sexual Violence, April 3-April 14
Upper University Center and Ulrich Student Center
Throughout the month of April, men will be encouraged to wear a white ribbon. The white ribbon campaign, which has grown to an international level, asks men to publicly state that they will not commit or condone violence against women and children. Men are asked to prominently display the ribbon and talk about the issue of men's violence against women. Co-sponsored by Sigma Chi & Alpha Chi Omega.

Banner project
The idea of this project is for each house to make a banner with an anti-rape/anti-violence message. The banners will be hung where Rachel Griffin is speaking on April 10 and will be hung outside the Greek houses on April 11 during the “Take Back the Night” march.

All Sexual Assault Awareness Month events sponsored by the Gender and Violence Group of the Women's Center. For more information about any of the Sexual Assault Awareness Month events or Lehigh University’s Women’s Center, please visit their Web site or call (610) 758-6484.

If you are a Lehigh student and you are a survivor of a sexual assault, relationship violence, or stalking, there are Lehigh students who want to help. Please call the “Break the Silence” sexual violence peer hotline at (610) 974-HOPE for a confidential and anonymous way to get information about the resources available to you.

To read more about the “Break the Silence” sexual violence peer hotline, please go online.

--Sarah Cooke

Posted on Friday, April 07, 2006

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