Sexual Assault Awareness Month was brought to a close at Southern Oregon University with a march from campus to downtown Ashland on April 28 advocating for a deeper discussion regarding sexual assault and harassment, put together by Riah Safady SOU Women’s Resource Coordinator.
The entire day of April 28 was accompanied with a plethora of activities including a film screening of the movie, “Yeah Maybe No,” a workshop of support for sexual assault survivors, a survivor circle, glow yoga, poems read by keynote speaker Nikkita Oliver and to finish the day a Take Back the Night rally and march into downtown Ashland at 8:15 p.m.
Through the march and the activities during the day and month survivors felt a sense of unity and understanding from the public. “As somebody who’s finally accepting that something happened from two and a half years ago, it’s very empowering to see other people involved in it,” said SOU student Jacie Shepherd.
“All in all I just kept thinking ‘this is awesome this is awesome, this is great.’ Everyone is pumped up, we have so much momentum and we have so much energy and it’s great that people are out here,” said volunteer chanter, SOU student, and sexual assault survivor Jamani LaShawn.
The march to downtown Ashland involved chants such as “Survivors unite, take back the night,” and “Join together, free our lives. We will not be victimized.” Around 50 individuals attended the march. Marchers also held signs supporting victims of sexual assault and advocating for awareness of larger sexual assault issues. While chanting down Ashland, drivers and pedestrians walking down the street would occasionally honk their cars, flash their lights, or cheer in support.
“As a survivor of sexual assault I think it’s something that people should be more aware of and it shouldn’t just be something that we push under the rug,” said SOU student Alex Redding.
According to Rainn, the largest national sexual assault organization, 23.1% of undergraduate females and 5.4% of undergraduate males will experience sexual assault. In 2011 SOU fielded 12 reports of sexual assault under the Clery Act, which requires colleges and universities to report any on campus sexual assault to the federal government, according to the Clery Center.
Jump forward to 2015 and SOU reported 97 sexual assault reports, according to Angela Fleischer a confidential adviser with SOU in an interview with the Mail Tribune. In an interview the Mail Tribune conducted with senator Ron Wyden in 2016, he considered the level of high sexual assault reports from SOU a step in the right direction, saying that “students have felt confident that they’re going to be treated fairly.”
“Honestly I feel that while SOU is setting a pretty good bar it’s not a hard thing to do when the bar is set so low. We’re doing great but there is so much more that we can be doing,” said LaShawn.
In order to become more a proactive school in the context of sexual assault, SOU started the Not Alone Survey, that has been facilitated by the office of diversity and inclusion at SOU.
“The survey, which is a study of sexual experiences and attitude among undergraduate students, is being used in colleges and universities across the country. Not Alone is being administered by SOURCE – an independent non-profit research center that is housed at SOU,” according to the diversity and inclusion office.
“We want folks of all experiences, races, genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations to take this survey. That way the data that we get is the most accurate that it can be,” said LaShawn. The survey itself, has been sent to all SOU students through their SOU email.
For more information on sexaul assualt visit that SOU Women’s Resource center in the Stevenson Union Basement room 102 or online at firstname.lastname@example.org