CARE activities go digital for Sexual Assault Awareness Month

In April 2019, a student reads one of the stories of assault in the Sexual Assault Awareness Exibit: "What Were You Wearing", presented by CARE, the Center for Advocacy, Response and Education. Outfits on display were recreated from stories of survivors who have experienced sexual violence. (File photo by Sarah Millard | Collegian Media Group

April 1 marked the beginning of Sexual Assault Awareness Month and the Kansas State Center for Advocacy, Response, and Education has taken to the internet to raise public awareness for sexual violence and its impacts.

Due to COVID-19, CARE has had to cancel their in-person activities for SAAM. Instead they opted to send out prerecorded videos each Friday for K-State faculty, staff and students to view from wherever stay-at-home orders sent them.

Since the shift, CARE has relied on the impact of social media like Facebook and Instagram to spread news about the videos.

Jessica Henault, sexual and relationship violence prevention specialist with CARE, said after they realized the K-State community was already overwhelmed, they are no longer requiring participants to register first and people can now view the videos at leisure.

“Limited operations has impacted the numbers of K-State participants CARE is able to reach,” Henault said. “However, in the end, the most important aspect is sharing high quality educational programming, and that takes precedence to quantity. Limited operations will not stop us from making an impact.”

Before the K-State campus moved to limited operations, Henault spent two months of planning for SAAM. It involved preparation to table two times a week in the Union and creating themes for each week.

Throughout April, the pre-recorded meetings will be sent out through the Safe Zone listserv to be shared among various departments. The April 1 video featured an introduction to SAAM, which included general history, goals, statistics of sexual violence and other national resources that can be used.

April 6-10 featured the “I Ask” campaign, which focused on what consent looks like using video resources from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. April 7 was the national “Day of Action” — participants were asked to wear the color teal and take a selfie to send to CARE’s social media. CARE also wanted to collect a few statements of support for survivors from participants and to fight against sexual violence on campus.

Week two revolves around the Riley County Police Department’s “Your Option, Your Control” program as well as the Kansas Bureau of Investigations “Yes, This Room” campaign. This week focuses on the lasting impact of sexual violence and its affects on individuals aside from the victim.

“Sexual Violence doesn’t just affect a survivor directly, but also family, friends, etc.,” Henault said.

Week four focuses on the topic of trauma and coping to share about the long-lasting impacts that sexual violence can have. This week will also be about breaking down mental health stereotypes and stigmas.

The last week of April is about online harassment in the digital age. There will also be encouragement for participation in the “Virtual Take it Back Night” nationwide.

In the past, CARE also hosted the “What Were You Wearing” survivor art gallery, but since shutdowns occurred, CARE will highlight Ohio’s University’s two virtual galleries, “Through the Survivor’s Lens” and “What Were You Wearing.” Eastern Washington University is also sharing their survivor’s clothing photos with CARE.

Henault said even though campus is shut down, CARE offices are still open to help anyone. All services are free, voluntary, and confidential to everyone.

“CARE can do virtual meetings or over the phone, even if staff and students have moved home.” Henault said.

Henault said despite the effect of COVID-19 on K-State campus and family, no one has to carry the weight alone and everyone needs to come together to fight against sexual violence.

“Whenever we end a meeting, we tell everyone that regardless of what has happened, you did not deserve it,” Henault said. “No one deserves to experience violence.”