Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2017 | Ashford University

Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2017 | Ashford University


Hello, Ashford, my name is Ben Gothia, and this is promoting awareness and wellness and students. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The goal is to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities on how to prevent it. This month we spoke with Victoria Iyamba, Ashford University Access and Wellness Counselor, about the 2017 theme, how sexual assault affects victims, and what you can do to support a community member who was a target of a sexual attack. Welcome to PAWS. We asked Victoria to tell us about sexual assault awareness month and the 2017 theme, “Engaging New Voices.” [Victoria] During sexual assault awareness month, survivors and advocates engage with the community in order to increase prevention efforts. Although one month cannot solve the gravity of sexual violence, the hope is the attention this month brings will produce energy, create opportunities, and expand prevention efforts to a broader audience. The theme, “Engaging New Voices,” is a call to identify leaders who can influence and bring about cultural change throughout the year. Examples of leaders can be members who are members of Greek life, coaches, fathers, and faith leaders. Over the next six months, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center will be releasing materials, videos, and resources to promote sexual assault awareness month. [Ben] As a representative who supports students who have experienced sexual violence, we asked Victoria to share some of the primary ways that a trauma of this kind may impact an individual inside and outside the classroom. [Victoria] Trauma from a sexual assault can impact individuals both inside and outside the classroom in a number of ways. Sexual violence can have a combination of psychological, emotional, and physical effects on the survivor. Some of the more common impacts include depression, flashbacks, or post-traumatic stress. Other concerns that are often reported include fear of contracting a sexually transmitted infection, an unwanted pregnancy, an onset of sleep or eating disorders. Any of these can impact a student’s ability to focus, find motivation, or generally be an active participant in school. Sexual trauma also has the potential to affect relationships with others. They may disassociate, withdrawal from relationships and experiences that previously brought joy, and find it difficult to trust others or hold on to new desires to build new relationships. This is no way an exhaustive or prescriptive list, just some of the factors that are common based upon my experience in supporting survivors. [Ben] All of us may have the opportunity to be a support for someone who might experience sexual trauma. Victoria shared some suggestions for offering effective support. [Victoria] If someone discloses to you that they have been a victim of sexual violence, it can be difficult to handle. A reaction that reflects support can make all the difference. When encouraging words and phrases are used, it can help avoid judgment and show support for the survivor. Phrases such as, ‘I’m sorry this happened,’ ‘I believe you, ‘This doesn’t change how I think of you,’ and ‘Are you open to seeking medical attention?’ can demonstrate your support and that they can trust you. Continued efforts can focus on supporting by avoiding judgments, checking in periodically, and knowing your resources in order to provide them when needed. It’s also important to understand that healing from such a trauma takes time, and the process is fluid. The survivor may have good days and bad days and each survivor’s response to the trauma is unique and not singular. A recent quote I encountered from Margot Wallström, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Sexual Violence and Conflict that I think is important as we engage survivors is, “Sexual violence is a way of demonstrating power and control. It inflicts fear on the whole community, and it is unfortunately a very effective, cheap, and silent weapon with a long-lasting effect on society.”