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Campus promotes sexual assault awareness: Sexual Assault week informs the students about options

After the trauma of a sexual assault, a victim clings to the possibility of pursuing legal action and calls the Millersville Universtiy Police Department.

The MUPD is ready to assist with the reporting, medical care, and counseling process for victims of sexual assault.

Knowing the importance of preserving evidence and getting a medical exam, the victim is unable to wash, use the toilet, or change clothes before being taken by the MUPD to Lancaster General Hospital for an exam.

It is a “grueling process,” according to Millersville’s Empower Peer Student Manager, Michelle Spiller, who has been extensively trained on sexual assault by the Lancaster YWCA to provide MU students with information about help.

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If the victim so desires, an advocate from the YWCA Sexual Assault and Prevention Counseling Center can also meet the victim and connect the victim to community resources including, Sexual Assault Forensic Examination (SAFE), STI (Sexually Transmitted Infections) and pregnancy testing, and emergency contraception.

In working towards preventing gender violence and sexual assault, the topic is one not everyone wants to talk about, Spiller said, but it needs to be.

Statistics given at the Silent Witness exhibition from April 12 to the 14 in the Ganser Library revealed the magnitude of the problem on campus and within Lancaster county, with one out of four women and one out of six men suffering S.A.

Freshman Cienna Hobbes said that the statistics were all pretty surprising, but “I do feel pretty safe here at Millersville even at night because there are well-lit areas around campus.”

Considering the fact that 90 percent of sexual assaults on college campuses involve alcohol, Hobbes said it was important to know your limits and your surroundings.

Still, as one silent witness exhibition displayed, the majority of rapes are committed by someone who knows the victim, rather than a stranger.

Continuing the tradition for the past five years, MU’s survivors of sexual abuse, domestic abuse, incest, and emotional abuse were given the opportunity to write their story on a T-shirt at the Clothesline project.

The Silent Witness Exhibitions and Clothesline projects, like those hosted by the EPEs (Empowered Peer Educators) at MU, highlight a larger national campaign urging all Americans to learn about and support sexual assault victims.

At the beginning of the month, President Barack Obama proclaimed April as National Sexual Assault Awareness Month saying, “As we continue to confront this crime, let us reaffirm this month our dedication to take action in our communities and stop abuse before it starts. Together, we can increase awareness about sexual violence, decrease its frequency, punish offenders, help victims, and heal lives.”

“I think it’s just so important just to have a month to devote to it because it is such a huge epidemic and problem occurring, and I just want people to be knowledgeable about it,” Spiller said.

Recognizing the need for resources at the federal, state, local and tribal level, Obama said that under the Violence Against Women Act direct funding of victims through the Sexual Assault Services Program will be doubled in the 2011 Budget.

Grants from appropriations make programs like those by the EPEs possible, through the Justice Department and the Centers for Disease Control.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center, maintained by the United States Department of Justice, has compiled materials for state and local campaigns during Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) from past and current campaigns to prevent rape and increase awareness.

In a month devoted to the victims of sexual assault stories resonate across the country of men and women joined in working towards justice so that the statistic of rapes reported might demonstrate less disparity and bias in the judicial outcomes.

This week from April 19 to 21 the International Conference on Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence and Stalking was held in Atlanta, GA. supported by funding from the Office for Victims of Crime of the Department of Justice.

Gathering in support and sharing expertise, victims of sexual assault, and medical and judicial professionals explored the issues of domestic violence, human trafficking and prostitution, concerns about pornography, judicial biases, the impact of impersonal technology such as texting, psychiatric analysis of sexual assaulters, and victim self-medication with drugs and alcohol.

“It’s amazing the results when you give people the opportunity to talk they have amazing stories of overcoming hardship,” Spiller said.

Housed year round in the Montour House, the EPEs also take part in the Elsie S. Shenk Wellness and Women’s Program, by serving students with various programs focusing on sexual assault prevention.

These include “Red Zone Awareness,” warning freshman and transfer students of the high risk of assault from move-in day until fall break; “Calling Men to Action,” embracing the help of MU men in preventing gender violence; “The Date,” teaching students about date rape; “Relationships 101,” talking about healthy and abusive relationships; “Hey Baby,” recognizing sexual harassment; and “Lovin’ The Skin You’re In,” showing the effects of the media’s portrayal body image.

According to Spiller, the EPE program is funded by non-profit organizations including the Lancaster YWCA and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, and they recently applied for grants to begin survivor support programs.

This week’s SAAM event hosted by the MU EPEs is a social norms campaign to bring men and women together in the fight against gender violence.

Posters of Millersville students, such as the men’s cross country team and members of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, standing up for change have been hung around campus to further encourage advocacy.

Spiller encouraged Millersville students to continue the social norms campaign by attending their table at Superfest.

Campus Resources:

Sexual Assault Advocate: 872-3433
University Police Department: 872-3433
Campus Emergency: 3911
Off Campus Emergency: 911
Student Health Services: 872-3250
Center for Counseling and Human
Development: 872-3122
Judicial Affairs: 872-3162
Empower Peer Educators: 872-3841
Off Campus Resources:
YWCA Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling
Center: 24 hour Hotline: 392-7273
Lancaster General Hospital: 544-5511
Planned Parenthood of Lancaster: 299-2895