Clark State leads campaign against sexual assault


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Examples of messages from the president include “I couldn’t make it to class today because my car broke down. Because I’m a sexual assault survivor, I’m afraid to walk to campus or take the bus.

Anyone can support the April 20 effort by wearing teal to show support for survivors of harassment and assault.

Another powerful reminder was Clark State hosting Project Woman’s “What Were You Wearing” exhibit, April 11-15, in the campus rotunda. It was created by Project Woman victim advocates who match survivors’ stories of sexual assault with outfits representing what they wore.

The exhibit features more than 60 survivor stories from members of the Springfield community, said Emily Parsons of Project Woman. She pointed out that it’s important because it happens to neighbors, friends, colleagues, family and others, and doing something when you see something can make a difference.

“This exhibit is a very powerful and effective tool to raise awareness of the prevalence of sexual assault and to challenge victim blaming myths,” Van Noord said. “Viewers of the exhibit have noticed many different types of clothing, representing different types of victims and age groups and will also notice how normal the clothing looks, similar to what (the viewer) may be wearing. The The display also reminds viewers to focus on supporting the victim rather than asking victim-blaming questions.

Laura Baxter, executive director of Project Woman, said Sexuality Awareness Month is about addressing the subject with courage and a commitment to action. This moves closer to holding perpetrators accountable and ensuring that victims are not blamed.

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“Having an intentional and safe space to discuss sexual assault issues is essential for our community,” Baxter said. “It’s an uncomfortable topic. People prefer to think we’re ‘beyond’ in 2022, but the truth is there are still a lot of stereotypes and myths out there. The conversation should be happening all year round, but in taking an entire month with an intentional focus on sexual assault awareness, we hope to de-stigmatize and open up the discussion in an impactful way.

Van Noord said organizers received positive feedback and gratitude for hosting the exhibition for several years and made it more interactive, with attendees given the opportunity to work on collaborative art projects.

This allowed for sharing empathy and honoring survivors and leaving uplifting messages for victims at an art station. At another, participants selected a strip of fabric to contribute to a campus-wide collaborative weave.

At the end of April, hopes are to continue prevention and advocacy. Clark State offers Active Bystander Intervention training for campus members to learn safe ways to intervene in a dangerous situation and other methods.

The school also offers confidential counseling services and works closely with Project Woman to obtain immediate advocacy services for victims.

“Project Woman is here for anyone who has been sexually assaulted,” Parsons said.

For more information about services, contact Project Woman at 937-328-5308.

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