Readers are asked to be aware and warned that this article may contain triggering material. Please proceed with caution.
April 1 marks the beginning of Sexual Assault Awareness month in the United States of America and in the wake of the tidal wave of concern surrounding the “Bay Shore Predator,” it could not come sooner.
According to surveys and data collected by the Center for Disease Control, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) and the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), one in six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime, one in four college women will be the victim of a sexual assault during her academic career, and three percent of college men report surviving rape or attempted rape as a child or adult. Though poignant in and of themselves, these numbers will forever be skewed and computer-generated because despite the fact that every two minutes someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted, nearly 54 percent of these attacks will never be reported to the police.
To help change these statistics, the NSVRC, with the help of the Counseling and Wellness Center (CWC), Safe Place and Rape Crisis Center (SPARCC) and a dedicated thesis student by the name of Paula Pulmano, are bringing the fight to the New College Campus. Starting on Mon., Apr. 23 and running until Fri., Apr. 27, New College will be hosting Sexual Assault Awareness Week with specific programs and events planned on each day to inform the New College community about the horrors faced by victims and what individuals can do to help.
“I [am] a survivor,” Pulmano told the Catalyst in an interview. “And I think a big part of [my participation] was trying to form a community of survivors and really trying to have support for the community. Doing things like putting on this week, these events, has really helped us become closer to each other, and to inform the New College community that there are victims of sexual assault on campus, even though we don’t talk about it explicitly.”
Pulmano, who is the unofficial student advocate of domestic and sexual assault on campus, has been trained by SPARCC and hopes to be a voice and comfort for any victims at New College.
“[Becoming an advocate] was part of my personal form of coping,” Pulmano explained. “I wanted to get involved with helping other survivors [and] when I started talking to student survivors here I got really involved with them because I understood what they were going through. I felt like they needed a voice and I was at a point [where] I could be that voice for them.”
On Mon. Apr. 9, the CWC taped bracelets to the mailboxes of all the students on campus as an early reminder for the coming week. The bracelets are teal, the national color for sexual assault, and also support the website for NSVRC and carry the words “Prevent Sexual Violence.”
As Sexual Assault Awareness week at New College kicks off on Mon. Apr. 23, Pulmano will begin the week by hosting a Clothesline Project T-Shirt making event. The Clothesline Project is described as “a vehicle for women affected by violence to express their emotions by decorating a shirt [and] then hang[ing] the shirt on a clothesline to be viewed by others as testimony to the problem of violence against women” on their website. This event is intended solely for victims and survivors, but Pulmano said that if there are extra materials, she will open the event up to secondary victims, usually the friends and family of victims, as well.
Alum Mark Wilco (‘03), will also be instructing another self-defense class in the Fitness Center from 8:00 to 11:00 p.m., which is open to all students, faculty and staff.
On Tues. Apr. 24, Pulmano and other volunteers will hang the shirts made for the Clothesline Project across Z-Green and between the trees in front of the Hamilton “Ham” Center classrooms. They will remain up until Friday, and Pulmano will be putting up new shirts every day.
That same day, thesis student Katherine Oglesby will be opening up her Sexual Assault Survivors art exhibit, which will be a presentation of anonymous art, including poetry and stories, designed by survivors to be hung in the Silo.
Then, at 7:30 p.m. in the Gender and Diversity Center, students will be encouraged to make and decorate a leaf with words, stories, images remembrances, or encouragements among other things in support of survivors of sexual violence in the LGBTQ community. Each leaf will be added to a “Unity Tree” which will be displayed in the silo.
Wednesday, Apr. 25 is Denim Day and students are asked to wear their jeans in support of the international protest against the 1999 Italian Supreme Court ruling, which overturned a rape conviction after citing that the survivor’s jeans were too tight for the assailant to pull down on his own.
At noon, CWC’s victim’s advocate will be on campus at the Four Winds for a Coffee Talk and the CWC welcomes all New College community members to take the opportunity to dialogue, ask questions, and learn about local resources.
Then, at 7:00 p.m. in HCL7, there will be an interactive presentation entitled “Window Through Worlds,” in which participants use art as a form of expression, translation and conversation.
On the penultimate day of Sexual Assault Awareness Week, Thurs. Apr. 26, the documentary “Until the Violence Stops” will be screened in the Teaching Auditorium in HCL8. The film will open with remarks by Dr Ray Burgman and the viewing will be followed by a discussion.
The grand finale, which will be held Fri. Apr. 27, is a Take Back the Night rally, as well as a Speak Out event, in which survivors and supporters will be given the chance to speak up and speak out to break the silence around the so-called taboo of sexual assault. A RAINN representative and sexual assault survivor by the name of Paolette Coronel will be coming in from Tampa to talk about her experience, coping and other survivor empowerment methods. The rally will also include a candlelight vigil and a walk to the Bay.
“I think that the supporters speaking out will be very important so that the survivor community feels like the New College community supports [us] in our coping and recovery,” Pulmano added.
Following the Take Back the Night rally, Pulmano will be hosting a survivor support group. Usually held on Tuesday nights, Pulmano is adding this meeting because she is acutely aware of the fact that the rally can be very triggering and difficult for some survivors and she wants to be able to support her fellow survivors in any way.
Pulmano, who will be graduating this May, is concerned that if she cannot find a job in Sarasota, New College will be left without a student advocate. If she is unable to remain near campus, she hopes to find another survivor who will be willing to go through training at SPARCC and become her successor.
“I do think there’s something special about having a student on campus, being an advocate,” Pulmano said. “And obviously, there are advocates who aren’t survivors, but being a survivor and working with other survivors, there is a special understanding between two survivors that a non-survivor wouldn’t have.”
Information for this article was taken from http://www.rainn.org, http://www.clotheslineproject.org and http://www.ncdsv.org.