Before 2014, a group of students carrying a mattress around their college campus might have looked like a prank or the result of a dreaded bed bug infestation. Now, the country knows it as a symbol of sexual violence survivor support and empowerment. This transformation started as a single piece of art and activism by Columbia University student, Emma Sulkowicz, in response to her own experience of sexual violence and reporting. Soon after she announced her project, similar protests sprouted up in solidarity on campuses across the country. The attention garnered by the ‘Carry That Weight’ project has been one powerful example of how important and impactful the voices of students are in the movement to address and end sexual violence on college campuses. Now it is your turn, as students, to bring the conversation to your campus and community.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and the theme of this year’s national campaign is Campus Sexual Violence Prevention. The Culture of Respect website offers resources to help students organize projects and programs to empower survivors, discuss consent and bystander intervention, and build communities with a shared vision of a sexual assault free environment.
Why are students so important? You are on the ground. You or someone close to you may have experienced sexual assault. You see where the gaps in understanding exist when it comes to consent, policies, awareness, and resources. You know what will engage students on campus. Whether it’s a Midnight Breakfast, a community Clothesline Project, a Take Back The Night vigil, or something entirely new and unique to your campus; student involvement is vital to successful Sexual Assault Awareness Month planning and Culture of Respect is here to help.
Last week, students in the Kappa Sigma Fraternity at a California university threw a “Respect Rocks” concert, including a Midnight Breakfast provided by a local café. Students connected with likeminded individuals and enjoyed an event where the standards and expectations aligned with their values and goals for the community. Community building is a vital step in building a Culture of Respect.
Culture of Respect is looking for ten campuses to throw their own event for Sexual Assault Awareness Month and has created a resource package to help bring your idea to life. Will you join us?
Show us your planning processes and programs on social media, including Facebook, Twitter (@cofrespect), and Instagram (#cultureofrespect). For more information about hosting an event, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
April is just weeks away. Let’s get to work!
Our guest writer for this blog post is Audrey Logan, activist and Culture of Respect Research Associate.