This week, the BU community observes Sexual Assault Awareness Week, an annual nationwide campaign that stresses the importance of public awareness of sexual assault and prevention. Events will include discussions, art events and performances, and more, culminating with the Take Back the Night Rally on Friday evening.
According to a survey published last September, more than one in four female college seniors (27.2 percent) reported having been sexually assaulted by force or while they were incapacitated during their college careers. At BU, there have been six rapes reported on campus since September, according to the BU Police Department.
“I hope that through active engagement in Sexual Assault Awareness Week events, faculty, staff, and students will recognize the need to learn skills to become prosocial bystanders,” says crisis intervention counselor Maureen Mahoney, director of the Sexual Assault Response & Prevention (SARP) Center. (Prosocial behavior is defined as any action intended to help others.)
This kind of behavior, she hopes, can “prevent sexual assault and other forms of gender-based violence, and demonstrate support for survivors of gender-based violence.”
While the weeklong observance is about promoting awareness, the first step in stopping sexual assault is prevention, says Sarah Voorhees, a SARP health and prevention educator. That might mean holding friends accountable if they make an inappropriate sexual or racial joke and “not contributing to cultures that allow violence to happen and continue,” she says. SARP offers a training prevention program called Step up Step in BU, where students learn to be prosocial bystanders by safely intervening in potentially harmful situations, such as a sexual assault.
The week’s events were organized by several campus groups, including SARP, the student-run Center for Gender, Sexuality, and Activism (CGSA), and Student Health Services Wellness & Prevention Services. Not all of the events are serious in nature. “It’s also important to talk about sex positively and healthy relationships in a really fun and engaging way,” Voorhees says.
As part of the nonprofit Clothesline Project, dedicated to ending violence against women, BU community members were invited to decorate T-shirts with personal testimonies about sexual assault or words of encouragement and then hang them on a clothesline for others to see. Those T-shirts will be on display at FitRec throughout the week.
Following is a list of this week’s Sexual Assault Awareness Week events on campus:
Monday, April 4
Let’s Talk about It: A Discussion on the Mental Health of Survivors
The student group Active Minds at BU and the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center are hosting Let’s Talk about It: A Discussion on the Mental Health of Survivors. There will be an interactive discussion, and participants will be asked to respond to hypothetical scenarios.
Let’s Talk about It: A Discussion on the Mental Health of Survivors is at the CGSA, George Sherman Union, 775 Commonwealth Ave., lower level, at 6 p.m.
I Will Walk with You
All members of the BU community are invited to chalk or spray paint a footprint to show support for survivors of sexual assault as part of the I Will Walk with You event. “This is a performance piece that is meant to symbolize the BU community’s support of survivors,” says Voorhees. “It’s also meant to be a call to action, a first step or something that someone can do to learn more about how they can help.”
I Will Walk with You begins outside the SARP offices, 930 Commonwealth Ave., at 1 p.m., moves down Comm Ave towards Central Campus, and concludes at 6 p.m.
Tuesday, April 5
Sexual Assault, Eating Disorders, and Feminism: An Evening of Comedy with Jessie K
Cosponsored by BU Student Activities, Wellness & Prevention Services, and SARP, this comedy night features actress, writer, and comedian Jessie Kahnweiler, who has a large YouTube following. Her short films and web series, which have appeared at venues like the Sundance Film Festival, explore Kahnweiler’s real-life struggles with eating disorders and how she coped after being raped.
Sexual Assault, Eating Disorders, and Feminism: An Evening of Comedy with Jessie K is at the Tsai Performance Center, 685 Commonwealth Ave., at 7 p.m. The event is free, and tickets are available here.
Wednesday, April 6
Not Ready for Bedtime Players
SARP and Wellness & Prevention Services have partnered to bring the comedy troupe Not Ready for Bedtime Players to BU. The group, comprising UMass Amherst students, performs skits—often very funny—that address health issues affecting college students, such as healthy sexuality, sexually transmitted infections, relationships, and gender.
The Not Ready for Bedtime Players performance is at Jacob Sleeper Auditorium, 871 Commonwealth Ave., at 7 p.m.
Thursday, April 7
Let’s Talk about It: Open Mic
The CGSA is hosting an open mic event called Let’s Talk about It: Open Mic to showcase the profound words of survivors, their families, and friends. CGSA member Kelley McNary (CAS’18) says she came up with the idea as a way to help survivors of sexual assault express their feeling without being censored. Speakers and performers are asked to provide trigger warnings, if appropriate, for those who may become uncomfortable and time for people to leave the room. Survivors can also submit stories and poems anonymously by emailing them to McNary at firstname.lastname@example.org. She will read from them at the event.
Let’s Talk about It: One Mic is at Morse Auditorium, 602 Commonwealth Ave., at 7 p.m.
Friday, April 8
Take Back the Night Rally
The week’s final event, the Take Back the Night Rally invites the BU community to gather to support survivors of sexual assault and their allies. Organized by BU’s Feminist Collective (FemCo), a student group within the CGSA, speakers and survivors will share their stories at the BU Beach before the march and then have an opportunity to join groups based on their gender and sexual orientation for further discussion. Take Back the Night will begin at the BU Beach and march through campus.
The Take Back the Night Rally starts at the BU Beach at 5 p.m.
Student victims of any crime, including sexual assault or domestic violence, are urged to seek help from any of the many crisis intervention, counseling, and student services available to them, both on campus and in the community. Crisis intervention counselors are available through the Sexual Assault Response & Prevention Center 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at 617-353-7277. Students may also call the BU Police Department at 617-353-2121 or the Dean of Students office at 617-353-4126 for assistance. Employees needing help may contact the Faculty & Staff Assistance Office at 617-353-5381 or by email at email@example.com.