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Advocates host sexual assault awareness week

Students and staff discuss sexual assault awareness at one of this week’s coffee talks. Photo by Helena Gruensteidl.

This past week two student groups led Sexual Assault Awareness Week in an effort to raise awareness and start conversations on campus. Grinnell Advocates and the Student Athletes Leading Social Change (SALSC) hosted several events throughout the week, ending with an event tomorrow. Following the administration’s attempts at curbing sexual assault on campus through alcohol related policies, these events are aimed at increasing awareness at the student level.

Events included t-shirt decorating for the Clothesline Project, a nationally recognized organization that works to ensure violence against women does not go ignored. The Project began in 1990 on Cape Cod, Mass. by decorating t-shirts and then displaying them publicly on a clothesline. The shirts carry phrases and slogans meant to remind the viewer of the epidemic of sexual assault and domestic violence in the United States. For Grinnell Advocates and SALSC, differentiating the Grinnell effort from the national organization is important to ensure that all survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence feel that it represents them.

“The national project is pretty heteronormative, focusing on men’s sexual assault against women and we wanted, as Advocates and SALSC, to make it more inclusive and focusing on all sexualities and genders,” said Ariel Keller ’17, a member of SALSC. “The Clothesline Project was on campus five or six years ago, before I was here.”

Rabbi Rob Cabelli originally had the idea for the clothesline project a couple years ago and Advocates and SALSC decided to revive the practice as part of the week. According to the national organization’s website, the different colored t-shirts are coded to represent different experiences of sexual assault and domestic violence.

Students and staff discuss sexual assault awareness at one of this week’s coffee talks. Photo by Helena Gruensteidl.

There are colors that are meant to represent those who died because of sexual and/or domestic violence, sexual and domestic assault survivors, those attacked due to their sexual orientation or political leanings and survivors of incest and sexual abuse. The organization hopes to bear witness to the often underreported consequences and reality of sexual assault and domestic violence.

Other programming included an athlete panel organized by SALSC to discuss promoting sexual respect on campus and a coffee talk in Loose Lounge with the Advocates and a labyrinth walk in JRC 101. These events are intended to remind students of the presence of sexual assault on campus and begin new conversations about preventing them in the future.

This year, Advocates partnered with SALSC to bring in a new voice and include athletes on a large scale.

“The week is largely put on by Grinnell Advocates, it’s their event holistically speaking, and they reached out to us at the end of December … asking us if we would want to partner with them and support them,” Keller said.

This partnership resulted in the SALSC athletes’ panel that discussed sexual respect and its importance on campus. SALSC is “a passionate coalition of college student-athletes who are compelled to change the world,” according to the groups Facebook page, and have been putting on events that seek to shed light on campus sexual assault during the Fall and Spring semesters. Last fall, the group organized a Sexual Assault Awareness Walk that met outside the JRC and traveled around campus, hearing speeches from various students and faculty.

Sexual Assault Awareness Week is an annual event that includes new partnerships and perspectives on the current campus climate. As the week wraps up, Keller noted that the Student Athlete Advising Committee at Grinnell had brought up the hope that more athletic departments would be involved with efforts such as Sexual Assault Awareness Week.

“This was something pioneered by the Midwest Conference, this is something they want more teams to be involved with,” Keller said. “Our biggest thing right now is to involve people who don’t feel like they have the correct language or are nervous or intimidated by it.”

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