Penn State’s Center for Women Students recognized Sexual Assault Awareness Month this April by sponsoring numerous events in an effort to support survivors and end rape culture.
The CWS puts sexual assault awareness at the forefront of their yearly programs and takes advantage of the month of April to stimulate more conversation.
“For some people who are not as aware, this highlighted month helps them focus and draw attention to this issue,” said Jennifer Pencek, programming coordinator at the CWS.
The series of events kicked off with the End Rape on Campus lecture led by civil rights activists Annie Clark and Andrea Pino of “The Hunting Ground,” a documentary about sexual assault on college campuses.
They spoke on April 3 at Freeman Auditorium. End Rape on Campus is a national organization that provides resources and support to survivors, victims, alumni, and faculty.
Survivors of interpersonal violence and their supporters were honored on April 10 at Memorial Lounge.
“Honoring Survival is one of our favorite events because it’s meant to be a smaller space for everyone to speak out and show that there is support within survivor groups and the ones that love them,” Pencek said.
The series closed with the fifth-annual international men’s march entitled “Walk a Mile In Her Shoes.” Both men and women wore high heels for a mile-long walk around campus. The walk was meant to speak out against rape, sexual assault, and gender violence. It was hosted by Men Against Violence, a CWS peer education group.
The walk was on April 14 and participants met in the HUB-Robeson Center before marching outside and around campus. According to Pencek, it is “a great visual type of event.”
These events are meant to draw awareness to sexual assault issues in general as well as at Penn State specifically, given the heightened number of reported sexual assaults in college campus settings.
According to the 2016 Penn State University Park Annual Security Report, there were a total of 46 forcible sex offenses, 35 on campus and 11 off campus. From 2013 to 2015, the number of on-campus forcible rapes increased from 9 to 24, raising the crime rate from 15% to 40%.
Penn State is one of the many colleges that has a high rate of reported sexual assaults. In the narrative “Missoula,” bestselling author Jon Krakauer reports rape and other sexual assaults at University of Montana.
According to Krakauer’s website, the Department of Justice estimated in Dec. 2014 that 110,00 women between 18 and 24 years old are raped each year.
Center for Women Students
Victims of sexual assault at Penn State are offered a myriad of resources, including medical care and emotional support and advocacy. Student victims of sexual or gender-based assault can also file an online report or make an anonymous one by calling the Penn State Hotline at 1-800-560-1637.
“Knowing that there are confidential resources I think is really important,” Pencek said.
She urges anyone who has been affected or knows someone to take advantage of the support that Penn State offers.
According to Pencek, letting victims know that you believe them and are sorry for what happened to them is one way to support them. Being informed about the resources available also allows supporters to guide victims to the right outlet for help.
“People will realize there’s a lot of resources here both before something happens and after,” Pencek said.
She also warns students to “watch jokes about sexual assault of men and women,” because a victim could be present and feel hurt.
For more information about resources available to Penn State students, visit the website of Penn State Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response at http://titleix.psu.edu.
“We want to empower people,” Pencek said.