Florida A&M University (FAMU) students Tanzania Ralph, Theresa Ballard, Phyillisity Walters and Michelle Johnson partnered with The Center for Interpersonal Violence Intervention and Prevention (CIVIP) to host “Shatter the Stigma.”
“Shatter the Stigma,” was held on April 3 in the Rattlers Den to raise awareness of sexual assault, eliminate violence on FAMU’s campus and assist students in building a support system.
During the event, the last episode of the Netflix Original “13 Reasons Why,” which discusses reasons why the lead character commits suicide, played on a projector screen. Once the episode was over, the conversation quickly began to heat up when addressing the stereotypes sexual assault survivors commonly face.
Michelle Johnson, the 111th Miss FAMU, said the Netflix Original should be played to portray the reality of sexual assault because it showed how rape affected two characters and their lives specifically.
“It’s not anyone pretending something is going on. It’s something that happens commonly around the world and it shows how it affected someone by her killing herself because of it,” Johnson said.
According to the Office on Women’s Health, one in five women in college experience sexual assault and those women may face health problems that can include depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The Office on Women’s Health also stated that only one in five college-age women who are assaulted report the attack to the police.
Balloons soon turned into props when participants were asked to write a stigma that they have encountered before and want to stop. Popping the balloon was their way of ridding themselves of that stigma and showing that they are not defined by other people’s perceptions of them.
“…It kind of represented opening up the conversation,” said Janel Robinson, CIVIP program coordinator. “Before you can have a conversation about things, you need to know the stigmas surrounding it before we can have an educational conversation about sexual assault.”
Co-organizer Ralph said that her fuel for pushing the event forward was to let others know that if you are a victim, it is never your fault and to always seek help if it happens to you or someone you know.
Jane Doe, who attended and participated in “Shatter the Stigma,” choose to remain anonymous, but said the event significantly made an impact.
“This affected me in a way because I’ve been sexually assaulted, so the fact that I’ve been there, and I’ve actually never told anyone made me realize that I have to talk to someone about it eventually or it will keep hurting me inside,” Doe said.
Freshman student, Kayla Randell, said she hopes that “Shatter the Stigma” inspires students to speak out and encourage others to continue the conversation about sexual assault to raise awareness.
“This event made me realize that a lot of women have been sexually assaulted, but they don’t come forward. It’s very heartbreaking that they go through this alone and they don’t have the support system that they need. I feel like we just need more people on campus to talk to more women and men about what they’ve gone through,” Randell said.