Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the Age of Quarantine

By The Office of Student Wellness Education and Violence Prevention

Director: Kathryn J. Wanner, Peer Health Educators: Sarah Laterza, Caroline Tippit, Kolby Smith, Luc Fondrie-Teitler)

At F&M a few months ago, what seems like a long time ago, many groups on campus were planning on-campus programming to participate in Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). The ADWC (Alice Drum Women’s Center) was planning its annual event, Take Back the Night. Here at WEVP (Student Wellness Education and Violence Prevention), we were working with the student group SAVE (Sexual Assault Violence Elimination) to host F&M’s Denim Day (April 29th), as well as various other in person workshops and events throughout the month. 

Now a lot has changed. Currently, we are all having to navigate a new landscape and contending with our immediate needs. We are also learning more about the impact of the pandemic on survivors of violence, and for the first time advocacy months like Sexual Assault Awareness Month have to shift entirely online. 

What Impact Does the Pandemic Have on Survivors of Sexual Violence?

We know that college-aged students across the nation, including students at F&M, experience alarmingly high rates of sexual violence. With the pandemic, we are all facing various challenges and there are particular impacts on these survivors. For one, researchers believe that current rates of domestic violence are increasing, so people are experiencing or witnessing a higher rate of violence in the home. In addition, survivors now may be disconnected from supportive communities, feel less connected to resources, and more alone. This compounds for those who experience racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, or other societal inequalities. Additionally, digital abuse and social media related violence like stalking and harassment could be happening at higher rates since we are communicating much more via technology. 

We likely will not know until hindsight the full effects of the pandemic on survivors, but we do know that now more than ever is a time to focus on taking care of ourselves and supporting each other as a campus community. In light of that, last week the WEVP office talked with Samantha Thiry, a local counselor and prevention specialist, from the YWCA Lancaster’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center (SAPCC), about things we can all do: 

  1. Take Care of Yourself: This is a hard time for all of us, so practicing self care is important. Ms. Thiry recommends Engaging in creative projects, coloring, painting…getting out there and exercising, even in the comfort of your own home. Staying connected to your community, to the people who make you feel good”. We all might not be functioning at our best, so advocacy and supporting our communities is even more challenging. Acknowledging that and reaching out for support is crucial. F&M Counseling Services is open and available to anyone, survivors or not, who wants to connect with a counselor and receive additional support. 
  2. Know that there are resources available. If you are experiencing violence, you are not alone. Campus resources are still available. In addition to F&M Counseling Center, F&M’s Title IX Office is open and available. There are also many off campus options. SAPCC offers telecounseling to clients, which is confidential, free and available to any survivor of sexual violence. You can access counseling through YWCA Hotline or contacting the office. Also, if you are not in Lancaster, the National Sexual Assault Hotline can connect you to your local resources no matter where you are located. You can also connect with our office for information about any of these on campus or off campus resources. 
  3. If you can, connect with people who might be struggling and offer support: “Staying in touch, even just to let them know you’re thinking about them is a good idea,” Ms. Thiry says. “Checking in goes a really long way for someone who’s been through a traumatic experience.” 
  4. Learn more about Sexual and Domestic Violence: “If you are wanting to help people in your community, on your own time, learn… to better understand the mechanics of sexual violence, if you’re ever asked for advice or input. Knowledge is power and being able to discuss [these issues]is really important. Acknowledge what you can and can’t control. Allowing [survivors] to make their decisions and empower them.” This article offers additional ways to support survivors right now. 
  5. Plug into advocacy and prevention work that is still happening: Organizations across the country, as well as SAPCC and F&M, have moved programming online. F&M’s ADWC, continues with a creative community participatory online adaptation of Take Back the Night and  WEVP is still hosting Denim Day on April 29th, when you can wear denim in protest of sexual violence and virtually support survivors. To participate, take a picture of yourself in denim and tag #fandmdenimday2020 @fandmwellnesseducation. SAPCC is also continuing with programming, Ms. Thiry mentions, “What we can move online, we’re moving online”. For a full list of programming, and ways you can support SAPCC, visit their website and check out their SAAM events. 
  6. Keep up the conversation: In order to prevent violence we can keep talking about it to the extent that we are able. Ms. Thiry emphasizes we can all continue to “make sexual assault part of the conversation not just during Sexual Assault Awareness Month”. 

Finally, whether we are survivors ourselves or not (many of us are), we all know someone impacted by sexual violence. And importantly, right now we can all play a role supporting one another in our F&M community even while we are physically apart. 

Other Important Resources:

If you are feeling unsafe, call 911. 

Counseling Services: 717-544-9051

F&M Title IX Office: Reach out to Dr. Kate Snider, kate.snider@fandm.edu, 717-358-7178

YWCA Lancaster Hotline: 717-392-7273

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-HOPE (4675)

This article is a contribution of  The Office of Student Wellness Education. For more information about this article and resources visit visitgo.fandm.edu/we-vp

Photo Courtesy of https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Teal_ribbon.svg

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