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AVI observes Sexual Assault Awareness Month with student events

By Rebekah Schroeder
Staff Writer

Trading tables for technology, Kiana Stockwell is a victim support specialist intern for Anti-Violence Initiatives (AVI) at the College, and in observance of April being Sexual Assault Awareness Month, she helped design the group’s Week to End Rape Culture (WERC) activities.

A political science major, the senior helped transfer the annual events to a remote landscape, helping to program what used to be a single date for workshops and informational displays into five digital, specialized days focusing on a variety of topics. As opposed to having just the one day to celebrate, The Day to End Rape Culture (DERC), transitioned into the week-long event celebrated April 12 to the 16.

“This is my fourth WERC event and I always look forward to learning something new and seeing the campus community come together to express an intolerance for violence and rape culture,” Stockwell said. “Each day is special to me and I’ve had a part in creating content for each day.”

(Photo courtesy of AVI’s website).

The Week to End Rape Culture fell in the middle of the month’s campaign against power-based personal violence. Changing the annual scope from in-person to social media posts and online seminars was a drastic change, but one that set a new precedent.

“Traditionally, we deliver this material in person. In order to move [it] online, we had to write all of this content down and create graphics,” said Michelle Lambing, AVI’s assistant director. “It’ll be so much easier to share this content with others for educational purposes, and I expect we will continue to incorporate online education into the overall curriculum in the years to come.”

Touching on everything from victim blaming and school dress codes to violence towards the LGBTQIA+ community, the posts are a new formatting of features from the annual event. 

AVI used the pandemic as an opportunity to connect with students through new means.

“The reason why we decided on a week-long digital and social media campaign is because DERC typically covers such a wide range of topics,” Stockwell said. “It made sense to create a posting schedule for social media that would last a week, as opposed to trying to cover everything in a day.”

AVI provides a multitude of services, including free and confidential short-term counseling for victims/survivors of sexual assault, domestic/dating violence and stalking. Their professional staff offer support as trained advocates, which includes accompaniment to offices on and off campus if a student wishes to go elsewhere to seek further action, and the coordination of housing and academic accommodations.

Zach Gall, prevention education specialist and staff therapist, explained that there are many approaches that those who have faced violence can take in their healing processes.

“The Office of Title IX and Sexual Misconduct can initiate investigation and disciplinary proceedings when both parties involved are affiliated with the TCNJ community,” he said. “In addition, they offer an Alternative Resolution Process, based in restorative justice, should a survivor not wish to pursue disciplinary proceedings. Title IX and Sexual Misconduct can also coordinate accommodations should a survivor choose to work through their office.”

Anyone in need can also consult Campus Police for criminal investigations and restraining orders, Mental Health Services for another counseling option, AmIOk for a third counseling option and a 24-hour hotline (609-270-4524) to connect victims of crimes with assistance, as well as other on and off campus features.

Besides the WERC, there are two workshops planned for the month, and a designated day for standing in solidarity with fellow advocates.

(Photo courtesy of AVI’s website).

The Green Dot Workshop on April 21 is meant to teach participants how to navigate high-risk situations while using the three Ds (direct, distract and delegate) to protect themselves.

The Supporting Survivors Workshop on April 27 encourages students to learn their rights, acknowledge the College’s resources and help uplift survivors of sexual assault.

To Gall, the difference between just reading the graphics posted on AVI’s Instagram and attending their upcoming programming are clear.

[The events] let the community connect both with us and each other in real time. There is also information that is easier to impart and take in when you’ve got a live person talking to you than just reading it on a screen. A lot of our content is hopeful and meant to be helpful, but these are hard topics to talk about! Doing this with others who have the same goal can be very energizing,” he said.

The last event of Sexual Assault Awareness Month is Denim Day on April 28, closing out the month with “an international day of remembrance and action,” as is described in the schedule.

“[Denim Day] began after an Italian court ruled that a survivor of sexual assault must have provided consent because her jeans were ‘too tight’ to be removed without her assistance. In support of all survivors, we wear denim to raise awareness of sexual assault and rape culture,” AVI’s team wrote.

Students are welcome to post photos and tag AVI to be featured on their Instagram, using the hashtags #TCNJGetsConsent and #TCNJSupportsSurvivors.

For Lambing, the observation is another way to help survivors and bring them together with the rest of the world rather than just those attending the College. 

“I think it is a really impactful experience to participate in something that’s bigger than just TCNJ and is a national, even global, effort. You’ll see colleges and other communities across the country participating in Denim Day,” she said. “If you follow #DenimDay on April 28, you’ll be able to see the collective investment across that nation, and it’s really awesome to know that TCNJ is a part of that.”

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