In October, it was revealed that Cornell University has the highest number of reported sexual assault incidents among New York State colleges. In 2017, a campus climate survey detailed that 55 percent of Cornell students had experienced sexual harassment. Sexual Assault Awareness Week, starting on April 29, aims to change these statistics.
Slated for its fifth iteration, the week is marked by a series of community events, curated to increase awareness of sexually related harassment on campus. This year, the week incorporated a different approach for outreach, according to Marissa Block ’19, co-lead on the planning committee.
“Something [we] were trying to do this year is to make sure everyone has a place in this discussion,” Block told The Sun. “[We are] reaching out to different groups on campus who would not hear about this ordinarily.”
This includes discussions with campus leaders from a wide array of academic, cultural, sports and pre-professional organizations, Block said.
Renee Odom ’20, president of ConsentEd, explained that club leadership structures play a role in the prevalence of sexual assault.
“A lot of students have come forward about leaders in organizations having assaulted or coerced them,” Odom said, adding that this topic has often been “handled incorrectly or insensitively” in the past. A discussion on May 1 will highlight this issue in particular.
The main takeaway, Block said, is for students to realize why it’s important to bring everyone into the discussion. The week sets goals for both awareness and change, including creating “action items” after each event, according to Block.
Some of the events for the week show the intention of widening outreach. Coordinators will screen an episode of the popular documentary series Surviving R. Kelly on April 30. On May 2, Support a Friend will teach students how to respond to a friend’s disclosure of sexual assault — “something that you don’t know you need to know until it happens,” Block said.
Events this week will strive to break some stigmas around sexual assault, Odom said.
“One stereotype we see is that sexual assault is often generalized as fraternity man against drunk women, and while that’s really common, that’s not [exclusively it], and we want to elevate all victims and survivors on campus to have a seat at the table,” Odom said.
As Odom elaborated, broadening awareness of who experiences sexual assault is one of the week’s aims, stating “gender non-conforming folks are highly, highly victimized … and we need to call attention [to this fact].”
Sexual Assault Awareness Weak will take place from April 29, culminating in a rally on May 3. A full list of events can be found on Sexual Assault Awareness Week’s Facebook page.
Editor’s note: Alec Giufurta is a ConsentEd Ambassador. ConsentEd is a sponsoring organization of Sexual Assault Awareness Week.