RAINN Day: sexual assault awareness hits home

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photos courtesy of Eva Gray/Catalyst

An attempted sexual battery occurred at an off-campus residence in the neighborhood adjacent to Bay Shore Road on Tuesday, Sept. 20.  The case seems to involve a repeat sex offender, a masked Caucasian male.

According to an e-mail alert sent out by the Campus Police Department, there have been similar incidents in the same area this past year. The Sarasota Police Department and Campus Police extended reminders to all off-campus residents to keep doors locked & blinds closed, especially at night, to be aware of surroundings and to not travel alone when walking or biking.

Lieutenant Michael Kessie told the Catalyst that the Campus Police became involved because many students live in the Bay Shore neighborhood, as well as because of its proximity to the Caples building.

This incident came just two days before New College hosted its first Rape and Incest National Network (RAINN) Day in order to raise awareness about sexual assault, rape and rape culture.

“I think since we are such a small campus and we all know each other so well, we let our guard down,” thesis student and RAINN Day organizer Paula Pulmano said. “Especially for people on campus, they don’t really think about what happens off campus. It’s a completely different world … It shows [that] places that we think are safe may not be as safe as we thought… so it’s definitely important to be more aware … to not be so afraid that you can’t go out, but to take extra precautions and to think about how to make yourself more safe.”

The RAINN Day events focused on prevention and awareness of sexual assault, rape and abuse. Activities included T-shirt and bracelet making, a discussion about sexual abuse & rape culture and a movie screening of Dreamworld3, which highlights the portrayal of men and women in music videos and its effect on rape culture.

“I have been interested in [RAINN] for a long time; I actually heard about it from the shelter in my town,” first-year and Brooksville, FL native Amanda Bragg said. She decorated a shirt with bubble paint and neon lettering. “I wanted to represent for all those who can’t speak about what they’re gone through. I think shirts are a great way to spread awareness – so even if people don’t approach you, they’ll see the shirt.”

Pulmano’s interest in RAINN day came from her extended involvement with the Safe Place and Rape Crisis Center (SPARCC), an organization that provides support for primary as well as secondary (friends and family) victims of sexual assault. They offer safe housing, assistance with restraining orders, getting people through the court system and hospital advocacy.

“New College and SPARCC had a meeting over the summer,” Concetta Hollinger, a sexual assault victim advocate for SPARCC, said. “We decided to come up with a more proactive plan to bring rape education, awareness and prevention tactics to the students here.”

Hollinger stressed that that the aim is to make the topic of rape and sexual assault less scary for students, faculty and staff. “Passive” programming includes pamphlet displays in places like the Counseling and Wellness Center and, soon, in the office of the Campus Police.  The “active” programming happens in the form of poster campaigns and discussion groups. Posters on the Silo in Hamilton “Ham” Center display images of the “I Own Me” campaign. There has also been a “Men of Strength” campaign and the next one is “Dating Safe,” which will promote respectful relationships.

Also, Pulmano will host “Survivors Talk,” a support group and conversation for survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, etc.

In addition to working with SPARCC, Hollinger is the New College victim advocate, a role that provides support for victims of all crimes from robbery and disputed medical bills to sexual battery and assault.

Resources: Counseling and Wellness Center, Rape Crisis Hotline (941-365-1976), New College Victim Advocate (941-504-8599), for “Survivors Talk” contact paula.pulmano@ncf.edu.

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