Written by Emily Leclerc
April is designated as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. It is a yearly campaign organized to raise awareness about sexual violence and educate people about the steps that can be taken to prevent it. College campuses especially tend to experience elevated levels of sexual assault, and many portions of the campaign are targeted to assist young adults in dealing with or preventing sexual violence. The campaign also aims to stop victim blaming and create spaces where people can feel safe opening up about their experiences.
This semester, a group of students addressed the topic of sexual assault in relation to LGBTQ communities in Dr. Gregory Rosenthal’s “INQ 300- LGBTQ and Storytelling” course. Group members Marlena Gonzalez, Katie Thaxton, Michelle Eimen, and Christian Delaney presented their research and findings in Kime on Thursday, April 11.
The presentation was focused on the physical effects of sexual assault, the laws in place concerning these crimes, and the resources available for victims. The realities of those who have suffered this sort of attack can be bleak. The physical effects and injuries can be damaging and long lasting. The mental damage that stems from this type of trauma often far outweighs the physical injuries. Virginia, fortunately, sports relatively progressive laws concerning sexual assault, but there are still loopholes and gray areas that can be taken advantage of. A large part of their presentation was dedicated to shedding light on the variety of resources available to sexual assault victims.
The group invited Laura Guiliams from SARA to further illuminate Roanoke county’s local resources. SARA, or Sexual Assault Response and Awareness, provides counseling and victim advocacy services to local victims of sexual assault. They also host educational workshops in the area. Guiliams gave a brief talk at the end of the presentation discussing SARA’s resources and how to contact them if necessary.
Sexual assault is a serious issue and open conversations need to occur in order to raise awareness and educate the community about what happens when it occurs and ways of responding. Gonzalez, Thaxton, Eimen, and Delaney have become part of the movement of those speaking up about sexual assault.
For those in need of someone to speak to if they have been affected, SARA has a 24-hour crisis hotline that can be reached at (434)-977-7273. It is entirely confidential and those answering are trained to provide necessary assistance.