Sexual Assault Action Week
BY SARAH MILLER-DAVENPORT
National Sexual Assault Awareness Month culminated with Action Week at Oberlin, a series of activities geared toward breaking the silence about sexual assault. The events that took place throughout the month were sponsored by SAST, the Sexual Assault Support Team.
Action Week began with a talk on Monday, April 23 by Andrea Smith titled “The Color of Violence,” part of the Indigenous Women Speakers series. Wednesday was “Make Some Noise Day,” during which students blew a whistle every two minutes in Wilder Bowl to signify how often a woman is raped. The benefit concert at the Cat in the Cream that night raised $150 for NORD, a rape crisis center in Lorain County.
On Thursday and Friday, SAST sponsored the Clothesline Project, in which survivors of sexual assault made and displayed t-shirts. The Clothesline Project, which was started in 1990 in Cape Cod, now has over 1,000,000 shirts internationally. In the six years SAST has been sponsoring the event, Oberlin’s Clothesline Project has collected over 200 shirts, many of which come from surrounding communities.
“Sexual Assault Awareness month was much bigger than usual,” SAST co-chair Brianna Cayo-Cotter said. The organization itself is much larger — it has 30 active members this year as opposed to five last year — and the SAST hotline received more calls than usual during the month of April. “Because we’ve been more visible, more people have been calling,” Cayo-Cotter said.
Cayo-Cotter also said SAST has been successful in appealing to a wider community. “One of the goals of Sexual Assault Awareness Month was to make SAST more accessible and diverse.” Earlier in April, SAST co-sponsored speaker Leslie Feinberg, a transgender activist, and the organization is trying to bring transgender issues to the forefront of sexual assault discourse.
In an attempt to be as inclusive as possible, Thursday’s Take Back the Night was open to all genders, unlike many other Take Back the Night ceremonies held throughout the country that do not allow men to march. The marchers began walking on Woodland Street, walked throughout campus, and finished in Tappan Square, where the marchers held a speak-out bonfire and shared their experience of sexual assault.
The only negative feedback to Sexual Assault Awareness Month was expressed during Take Back the Night. While walking past Zechiel Hall, the marchers were heckled by people standing outside the dorm. “It made a lot of people feel unsafe. Take Back the Night is supposed to be empowering,” Cayo-Cotter said. Nevertheless, “we’ve been generally getting really good feedback.”
SAST plans on maintaining its hotline through commencement.
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