In the fight against sexual violence, educating the public and providing healing for sexual assault survivors are steps the Florida A&M University Office of Counseling Services has developed.
According to the counseling center, one in four college females are sexually assaulted during their time at college, and one in six males are sexually assaulted before the age of 16. In addition, 90 percent of sexual assaults go unreported.
According to Lt. Angela Kirkland, since 2008 only two sexual assaults have been reported to campus police.
“The goal is to send a message that this is something that needs attention and needs to be talked about,” said Allison Lockard, assistant director of clinical programs. “It is an issue that needs to be addressed on college campuses.”
In recognizing April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the Office of Counseling Services will host its third Annual Clothesline project April 7-10, where students, faculty and staff can hang hand-designed t-shirts to express their feelings about sexual assault.
“The project displays shirts designed by students to portray messages of support to survivors and let others know that this is an important issue that they are in support of speaking out against sexual assault,” said Lockard, who will also be a guest speaker on FAMU’s radio.
By participating in the Clothesline event, students can learn the prevalence of sexual assault and the importance of being aware. Survivors will also learn that there are available resources to them.
“I believe this project is a great idea, especially seeing as to how several students are not aware of sexual assault, domestic violence and even rape,” said Kierra Eileen Lang, 20, a second-year education student from Orlando, who participated in this project last year.
Other students like Tamara Williams agreed and said she thinks the counseling office does a great job informing students about sexual awareness and how to protect themselves.
“Nowadays, people think things as sexual assault and things of that nature only pertains to ladies,” said Williams, 20, a second-year political science student from Miami. “Every day, the number of men who are being assaulted continues to increase.”
Some students said they feel safe, but not at all times.
“Personally, I feel pretty safe on campus because the lighting around campus has increased tremendously and I do not walk alone at night,” Williams said.
Both Williams and Lang agree the one thing that should increase around campus is FAMU police.
Kirkland said there are a number of precautions students can take to protect themselves.
“Trust your instincts when you sense danger,” Kirkland said. “Don’t be embarrassed to make a scene if you feel you are in danger,”
The awareness activities will also educate students about the difference between sexual assault and rape.
The Florida Department of Health describes a sexual assault as any type of sexual activity that’s not consensual. This includes inappropriate touching, sexual harassment, or rape. It can also be verbal or visual. However, rape is a form of sexual assault that involves penetration.
The Office of Counseling has three certified victim advocates who can help students with sexual assaults. The office also provides many other services such as individuals and groups counseling, programs on housing, organizations and classes.
FAMU Department of Public Safety offers rape aggression defense training to FAMU community. Lockard encourages students to be supportive if they know someone who has been a victim, and accompany the person to the police counseling or hospital.
“Don’t ask a lot of why’s,” Lockard said. “Believe them and don’t judge them.”
The office will accept t-shirts donations until Friday, April 3. Everyone is encouraged to stop by Sunshine Manor to design t-shirts this week from 8 a.m. 5 p.m.