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UNT to host ‘Embrace Your Voice’ events during Sexual Assault Awareness Month

UNT to host ‘Embrace Your Voice’ events during Sexual Assault Awareness Month

UNT to host ‘Embrace Your Voice’ events during Sexual Assault Awareness Month
April 03
11:03 2018

UNT is set to observe Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) throughout April, emphasizing this year’s theme “Embrace Your Voice” at a variety of events including the annual Take Back The Night event on April 5.

Numerous departments at the university, including the Dean of Students, the Health and Wellness Center, UNT Libraries and more, are planning events. Denton County Friends of the Family (DCFOF) is also putting on programs to mark the month and educate people on sexual assault.

The significance of SAAM

This year marks the 17th anniversary of SAAM, according to The NO MORE Project, which aims to educate communities about sexual assault and raise public awareness.

“One in four women in the state of Texas and nationally are affected by sexual assault specifically,” DCFOF Community Education Specialist Nathan Richardson said. “This is a very real issue for a lot of people, either something they have experienced personally or they know someone who’s experienced it.”

DCFOF also wants to dispel stereotypes about sexual assault during this month, holding workshops to educate people about domestic and sexual violence.

“There’s still very much this idea [that] rape only happens by a stranger in a dark alley,” DCFOF Community Education Specialist Nicole Owens said. “We know that’s not often the case, so there’s still a lot of myths and things that we want to debunk and bring awareness to.”

Perla Valdez Gomez, the founder and current president of the UNT organization This Ends Now, said this month is also helpful for those who don’t have any experience with sexual assault advocacy.

“I have encountered people in the past who don’t believe it’s their place to advocate for victims or survivors because they themselves have never experienced this, so they don’t want to speak for them,” Gomez said in an email. “This month of awareness I think can help those individuals realize that the fight against sexual assault is going to require the support of victims and bystanders both.”

UNT Survivor Advocate Renee McNamara stressed the importance of combatting sexual assault and of people getting involved.

“It is a UNT community issue to combat sexual assault,” McNamara said in an email. “We need students, faculty, staff and community members to help us do continued education and prevention. We all need to be active bystanders and help those that need our assistance.”

#MeToo & SAAM

With the visibility of the #MeToo movement, which shed light on the issue of sexual assault and harassment through social media, DCFOF believes the movement will help bring attention to SAAM.

Richardson said he hopes to see more engagement in SAAM through activism, social media and attending events.

“[Hopefully] we’re just going to have more interest in our events that are going on and more activity after the fact,” Richardson said. “The idea behind this is to get people excited so that we can sustain. We can get people signed up to be volunteers or to donate.”

Gomez said she thinks the #MeToo movement will affect this year’s SAAM by bringing understanding to the issue of sexual assault.

“I think for bystanders or people who haven’t experienced assault, they can better understand that this is way more common than many people believe it to be,” Gomez said. “Ideally, I think this will inspire many more people to join the fight to end sexual assault.”

Events honoring SAAM

UNT will be hosting “It’s On Us” week during the first week of April, with tabling, a town hall and Take Back the Night as the biggest events UNT has planned.

“These programs provide opportunities for those passionate about advocating against sexual assault to stand in solidarity with survivors and educate the community,” McNamara said.

DCFOF is introducing a new event to their SAAM event lineup, “Cup of Prevention,” which is a campaign to partner with local coffee shops to raise awareness about sexual assault.

“We just wanted to find some other ways to get connected to our community,” Owens said. “This was an idea that has been done by other agencies around the country before and so, we just thought it was a good idea for our community to do.”

To see DCFOF events, click here and to see UNT’s planned events, click here.

If you or someone you know is dealing with sexual or domestic violence, you can contact RAINN at (800)-656-4673, DCFOF at (800)-572-4031 or a UNT Survivor Advocate at (940)-565-2648.

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Lizzy Spangler

Lizzy Spangler

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