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Sexual assault awareness rising
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and JMU held several events to raise awareness, support survivors, and assist healing.
"We had a tremendous response to the sexual assault awareness programming, outreach, and events this month," said UHC Assistant Director Liz Howley. "Hopefully we were able to raise the level of awareness on campus this month so that it will make a difference in our community. The more we talk about it and are open about it, the more comfortable survivors feel and they know they're not alone."
The Clothesline Project is an annual visual display that bears witness to violence against men and women. The event is put on by the Office of Residence Life and the UHC. It is composed of t-shirts decorated to represent various individuals' experiences or relationships with domestic violence, sexual assault, or sexual victimization. More than 725 shirts were rotated through Warren Hall's Transitions during the three-day event.
"My perception was immediately changed," sophomore Adam Ballou told the Breeze after visiting the Clothesline Project. "Going in there, I realized how unaware I was of how many cases there were. It made me think, what type of man could do that? It saddens my heart that this is reality."
Take Back the Night is an annual evening dedicated to raising awareness of violence and sexual assault committed against men and women, while creating a supportive environment for expression and empowerment. The event included an a capella performance, poetry, a speak-out, candlelit march, and a powerful presentation from actor/author/orator Angela Shelton.
"We all have a story and I believe instead of staying in it that you heal from it and move on and that those of it like myself who have healed when we tell our story, it helps someone else," Shelton told WHSV.
The Invisible War, an Oscar-nominated groundbreaking investigative documentary about the epidemic of rape within the U.S. military, was screened at Grafton-Stovall Theatre.
In a post on the blog Shoutout! JMU, a JMU student wrote "I wish more people had gone, because ... this is such an important issue that people need to be aware of. If you haven’t seen it yet it is available on Netflix! So go see it! It’s an eye opening experience!"
"Step up for Survivors was an amazing event," said freshman Stephanie Bender. "CARE seeks to bring awareness about sexual assault, rape, and intimate partner violence to campus - and the walk really did this. Even if people did not walk with us, it is hard to ignore the giant crowd of blue and white balloons across the quad."
CARE also hosted professional storyteller Nancy Donoval, a witty, fearless, and open-hearted speaker and sexual assault survivor.
"Storytelling is a powerful tool, given that there is such an unfortunate amount of shame and silence surrounding sexual assault, intimate partner violence, and rape," said junior Sarah Morales. "Nancy Donoval speaks in such a way that makes you feel every bit of emotion in her story. I was absolutely shaken to my core. I've never had an experience such as that. My hope is that more and more people open their ears to these important stories."
JMU Panhellenic Council screened It Was Rape, a gripping and emotional film about eight women who tell their diverse personal stories of sexual assault, and it was followed by a discussion with the filmmaker, Jennifer Baumgardner.
"I thought it was an amazing thing that so many people had gone through it and survived," said freshman Mikala Morrow. "It was a celebration of survival in which people could join together and support each other in a way that helps them cope."
The University Health Center provides advocacy, referrals, and support for students who are survivors of sexual assault and their significant others and friends. These services are provided to all students and are confidential.