By Cache Cantrell
Senior Staff Writer
In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Janet Millar Counselor and Training Director in the CSUB Counseling Center hosted an open session Thursday evening with activities and discussion regarding the issue.
Students were presented with a table of informative pamphlets and activities. Students were able to decorate T-shirt cut outs in honor of those who were victims of violence. Each T-shirt color represented a type of violence. For example, red represented rape or sexual assault and purple represented homophobic violence.
Students anonymously wrote messages about themselves or their loved ones on the T-shirt; one saying “I want to make this shirt for my mom who was abused by her dad until she ran away at the age of 14. I’m so proud of you for breaking free and making so much of yourself, you’re the definition of a survivor.” Another T-shirt said “Love is NOT black and blue all over!”
Participants got to show their knowledge of how to put on a condom correctly by putting the steps in order as well. Students also signed a pledge: “I pledge to stand up against language that places blame on survivors of sexual assault. To listen judgment fee to survivors of sexual assault that open up to me. To offer help to a victim of sexual assault without taking decision making away from them. To take action if I see potentially violent/harmful behavior.”
Following the activities, Millar had those in attendance split up into smaller groups to create a more intimate and safe space for students to discuss their experiences. The facilitator of each group asked the students questions like “What does consent mean to you?” and discussed their own experiences with sexual abuse and violence. One of the groups talked about spousal rape. Senior, criminal justice major, Joel Estrada, explained how things have changed pertaining to the subject.
“In the past people thought that because you married someone it wouldn’t be considered rape, but now in current times that isn’t the case, a wife can say no,” Estrada said.
When the students were all brought back together they were given the opportunity to open up about what they had discussed in their group and honor those they know who are survivors of sexual or nonsexual violence during a candle light vigil.
Students expressed their feelings about how the topic of sexual abuse is taboo in society. Sophomore, psychology major, Savannah Andrews, described how people react when someone mentions they are a survivor of sexual abuse.
“If someone sat down at a table and said ‘I’m a survivor of cancer’ people would say ‘Oh, congratulations, you’re courageous.’ But if someone sat down and said ‘I’m a survivor of sexual abuse or child sexual abuse’ it’d get awkward,” Andrews said. “People wouldn’t know what to say because people in society are shameful of it. So what we are trying to do is try and get shame out of the victims, make them survivors and encourage them to be courageous.”