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The Center for Advocacy, Response and Education is hosting events throughout April to raise awareness of the impact of sexual assault and show support for sexual assault survivors.

This year is the 20th anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Melissa Wilkerson, victim advocate for Student Affairs, said the month focuses on activities that teach sexual assault awareness and ways to get involved in sexual assault prevention.

Lanie Stutz, victim advocate for Student Affairs, said the “What Were You Wearing?” Survivor Art Installation showcases various sexual assault survivor stories by displaying clothing that tries to replicate the clothing of survivors when they were sexually assaulted.

“The purpose is to kind of shed light on this myth that sexual assault has anything to do with what you’re wearing,” Stutz said. “When you come through the exhibit, you’ll see the little black dress next to the military fatigues, so it’s really attacking, if you will, dispelling the myth that clothing equates to sexual violence.”

This event originated from the University of Arkansas, and one of the original creators moved to the University of Kansas, according to Stutz. Stutz said when she first took her position at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, she always knew she wanted to bring the event to campus, so she contacted the University of Kansas and they shared their packet on how to create this event. 

The event was unable to be held in person last year because of COVID-19, so although this is the third year of this event, it is only the second time that it is in person.

The art installation is running April 12-22, with April 12-15 on City Campus, in Pioneers A of the Willa Cather Dining Center, and April 19-22 on East Campus, in the Prairie Suite of the Nebraska East Union, according to Student Affairs.

Denim Day is an international event that takes place on the last Wednesday of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, according to Wilkerson. Wilkerson said the event started in the 1990s when a rape conviction was overruled by the Italian Supreme Court because the perpetrator claimed the victim’s jeans were so tight she must have helped to take them off, implying consent.

“People wear denim on this day to do two things: One, just to show support and solidarity with survivors and two, also help protest the myths and stereotypes that are put on the people that experience sexual violence,” Wilkerson said.

Wilkerson said she would love for students to wear denim on April 28 and also post pictures of themselves on social media and tag the UNL CARE Instagram page. Wilkerson said the plan is to start a photo collage and for the photo collection to grow every year.

On April 7 at 6:30 p.m. the End Rape on Campus: Shining a Light of Hope for the Future event was scheduled to occur at the Broyhill Fountain, but was canceled due to weather, according to Student Affairs. 

Stutz said the event was meant to focus on the impact of sexual assault on college campuses. Stutz said people could have decorated bags with words of encouragement for sexual assault survivors, like writing that survivors matter, or a pledge to get involved to stop sexual harassment.

On April 1, there was Pop Culture Trivia: Sex Assault Awareness, which was about identifying prevalent issues of consent, sexual harassment and sexual assault within the media that people consume every day. This included looking at TV shows, movies, music lyrics, news stories and other pop culture media, according to Stutz.

“We’re not telling people don’t watch these things but just look at them with a critical eye of realizing how much we see these in our daily lives of all the stuff that we consume and just be mindful of that,” Stutz said. 

Stutz and Wilkerson said although this is the 20th anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, there have been people pursuing sexual assault advocacy, prevention, education and awareness long before this.

“It’s important to highlight these last 20 years, while also completely honoring and respecting the work that’s been done well before that,” Stutz said. “Sexual Assault Awareness month is an opportunity for those who have been impacted by sexual violence to feel and hopefully see that they are seen and to continue trying to make people more aware of this issue and work towards a campus free of sexual violence.”

UNL CARE Advocates can be reached by phone at 402-472-3553 or email victimadvocate@unl.edu.

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