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Sexual Assault Awareness Week boosts support

By Kelsey Roebuck

This past week was the second annual Grinnell Sexual Assault Awareness Week and featured speakers, panels and interactive events exploring the many dimensions of gender violence, prevention and education.

“The awareness we raise during this week will hopefully serve as a foundation for all year round, so people kind of have a sense of what is an active bystander or any other type of sexual assault programming we have going on throughout the week,” said Chris Marsho ’14, a leader of Real Men.

Alan Heisterkamp, Director of Mentors in Violence Prevention at the University of Northern Iowa, gave the first presentation Monday evening, kicking off the week with an emphasis on engaging men as important players in the prevention of gender violence.

“When you talk about men’s role or engaging men in ways in which to raise awareness and prevent issues of gender violence … men are not coming at the same volume or the same percentage as their female counterparts are to have these conversations,” Heisterkamp said.

Drawing upon his personal experiences as well as a wealth of statistical information, Heisterkamp illustrated that in the last 10-12 years, a greater proportion of men have been drawn into the discussion of gender violence. Heisterkamp pointed to the emergence of male-oriented gender violence prevention networks and national ad campaigns to explain that much of this increased awareness stems from efforts to forge connections between men along the lines of violence prevention.

“One of the things that works to engage men is to be able to attach yourself to other men who are thinking in similar ways,” Heisterkamp said. “For example, to bring it even closer to home here at Grinnell, Real Men.”

On Tuesday, Brenda Bash, the Director of the Polk County Crisis and Advocacy Center, spoke from a different perspective on these issues by addressing ways to provide support for survivors of sexual assault or abuse.

“Everyone is a crisis responder,” she said. “There are tools that we have when we respond to any kind of crisis. These are things that you don’t need a Ph.D. for. You don’t need to have all of the initials after your name.”

Some of these tools included ensuring that survivors feel safe and calm. Bash also said that it is important to encourage their self-efficacy and connectedness to a support network. The final step of the process is to provide hope for the future.

“Our body is designed to heal itself; that is how we’re built,” Bash said.

In addition to visiting lecturers, the Student Affairs staff provided a more local viewpoint during a Consent Workshop Panel in the JRC on Wednesday.

“New for this year is a panel we [have] that has several staff as the panelists,” Marsho said. “I think it [was] really interesting to have a staff perspective on some of the issues that are on campus as opposed to a student’s perspective, which is typically what we’re dealt here.”

The diversity of perspectives represented in these various activities can be traced back to the five different campus groups who sponsored the events. Real Men, the Feminist Action Coalition, Pioneer Diversity Council, Grinnell Advocates and Healthy Relationships were all involved in coordinating activities to raise awareness.

“What we did last year is we had one group host a night and this year we kind of did that similarly but we kind of meshed those together so it was definitely more of a collaborative effort and I think that was really good for what we’re trying to do,” Marsho said.

By working together, all five groups are able to make their roles on campus visible and encourage the community to see them as resources as well as ways to get involved.

“The purpose of this week is to show that the campus stands in solidarity with its survivors and that we take this issue very seriously here,” said Anna Banker ’15, member of Grinnell Advocates and a leader of the Feminist Action Coalition. “I think it’s really to contest this idea of invisibility that is related to sexual assault very often.”

Sexual Assault Awareness Week continues today at noon with a panel on Title IX, which promotes equality in education. There will be a one-act play on Monday in JRC 101 at 4:30 p.m.

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