Southeast Missouri State University will observe Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) April 24-25 with survivor support and empowerment events.
The Southeast and local community is invited to participate in this year’s SAAM events, sponsored by Southeast’s Campus Violence Prevention Program (CVPP) and Counseling and Disability Services.
“Everyone is invited to raise awareness and join in working toward a violence-free world,” said Donna St. Sauver, coordinator of the Campus Violence Prevention Program. “Take a stand with Southeast Missouri State University against sexual violence in all forms, and together we can change our culture.”
On Wednesday, April 24, participants can help take a stand against victim blaming and destructive attitudes about sexual assault by wearing jeans for Denim Day. Participants are invited to join CVPP at noon in front of Academic Hall for a group photo. Peer educators will also staff a table with free Denim Day pins and cards, SAAM ribbons, informational pamphlets on healthy sexuality and giveaways.
Denim Day was established in response to an Italian Supreme Court Ruling. In 1997 in Rome, an 18-year-old woman was raped on the side of the road by her 45-year-old driving instructor, who was later convicted and sent to prison. The perpetrator appealed the sentence and his case was heard before the Italian Supreme Court and overturned. The head judge stated that because the victim wore tight jeans, he assumed she must have helped remove them, implying consent. Enraged by the decision, the women in the Italian Parliament protested by wearing jeans on the steps of the Parliament building. Victim blaming contributes to the large number of sexual assaults that go unreported. Survivors often fear being blamed and judged, and therefore do not seek the support they need, suffering silently and alone.
“By participating in Denim Day, you can help send a message to survivors that Southeast is a safe place to seek help,” St. Sauver said.
On Thursday, April 25, SEMO Rising! and Survivor Speak Out will take place at 7 p.m. on Academic Terraces. In case of rain, the event will be held in the Student Recreation Center’s West Gym.
Survivor Speak Out allows survivors to speak (or sing or dance, etc.) their experiences in a safe and supportive environment. Supporters are also welcome during the open mic to voice support and promote awareness (speakers have a five-minute time limit, and no organization promotion is allowed).
“SEMO Rising is the local event where we create a safe space to empower survivors to share their narratives,” St. Sauver said.
The evening will conclude with a candlelight vigil in memory of those who have lost their lives to sexual violence. The event will be followed by the 1 Billion Rising group dance, “Break the Chain.”
Throughout April, an exhibition of clothing from survivors of sexual violence, including personal narratives from victims, is on display at Southeast’s Catapult Creative House, located at 612 Broadway in downtown Cape Girardeau. The exhibit, titled “What Were You Wearing? A Survivor Art Installation,” highlights how wearing clothing is a universal experience, a common part of our daily lives, but for survivors of sexual violence, the question, “What were you wearing?” is still pervasive. This exhibition bears witness to the harm caused by this query and places the burden of the answer back on the shoulders of the community. This exhibition will be on display until April 25.
For more information at Southeast’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month, contact Donna St. Sauver at email@example.com or (573) 986-6899.