Loyola is hoping to increase the discussion and prevention of sexual assault this April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Sexual Assault Awareness Month originated from a week of awareness created by the National Coalition Against Sexual Assault in the late 1980s, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC).
But the issue of gender-based violence and rape culture — in which society normalizes sexual violence or inequality — still persists today.
From Jan. 1 through April 10, Loyola received 67 Title IX reports — which involve gender-based misconduct — compared to 20 in the same time period in 2016, according to Title IX Deputy Coordinator Jessica Landis. Of the 67 reports, 39 were classified as sexual assault.
Loyola saw 76 reports of gender-based misconduct last semester as of Dec. 8 — 27 more than the 2015 fall semester, The PHOENIX reported.
However, these reported incidents did not necessarily occur at Loyola or during a student’s time at the university.
Loyola is aligning with this year’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month theme set by the NSVRC: “Engaging New Voices.” The goal is to encourage different groups to start discussing and preventing sexual assault.
Gender-based violence can come from limiting gender roles, according to the Wellness Center’s Senior Health Educator Mira Krivoshey, who’s responsible for overseeing the month’s activities.
“One of the root causes of gender-based violence is holding very strict ideas of what a man or what masculinity looks like and in turn, what femininity looks like and what a woman’s role is,” Krivoshey said. “Healthy masculinity doesn’t just involve being aggressive and being tough and being strong and powerful, but it also involves being vulnerable. It also involves being emotional.”
To combat these traditional gender roles, the Wellness Center, in partnership with its sponsored student-run organization CHANGE — which stands for Challenging Antiquated Norms for Gender Equality — is displaying an interactive art piece in the Damen Student Center all April.
The piece displays the words, “A real man” and has several nails with words such as “understanding” and “patience” driven into wood. Students can use yarn to connect to the words that resonate with them, Krivoshey said.
Students formed CHANGE in August, according to its PR and Marketing Executive Anna Neufelder. The group, which is funded and supported through the Wellness Center, meets biweekly and accepts members through an application on a rolling basis, Neufelder, 20, said.
“CHANGE is a group founded on the belief that Loyola should respond in a positive manner to crimes that are … founded on gender-based violence,” the sophomore advocacy and social change major said. “And we work to create programming that empowers survivors: it challenges norms and it creates awareness about this challenging issue.”
The Wellness Center and CHANGE will also host a “kissing booth” with Hershey Kisses in the Damen Student Center to educate on consent. There will also be movie screenings, a panel on April 25 about faith and intimacy and a survivor ally training on April 26 that will teach students how to help survivors of sexual assault.
Some Loyola students, however, said they think Loyola could do more for sexual assault victims.
Gracie B. — who wished not to use her last name — said that Loyola is more supportive in comparison to her previous college, where she was sexually assaulted twice, but that there’s room for improvement.
“There’s always things to be better at. April’s great for awareness, but we need it all the other months, too,” the 23-year-old said.
A Loyola junior, who wished not to be named because she discussed her experience with sexual assault, said she was frustrated by the length of her hearing process when she reported the assault to Loyola last semester.
Both women, who were part of the group of survivors that penned an open letter in The PHOENIX in January about survivor advocacy, suggested that there be more discussion and education about rape culture, what consent is, what sexual assault is and who can commit these crimes.
“There’s this stereotype of the guy who rapes you, you know, ‘It’s in an alley, it’s a sketchy guy that you don’t know,’” Gracie B. said. “By stereotyping the people who do rape other people, it doesn’t shed light on the truth of it … Life would be easier if you could pinpoint exactly what a rapist is, but the truth is it’s the guy in math class, it’s your close friend, it’s your boyfriend.”
Gracie B. and the 20-year-old junior student both said the month’s activities can be difficult for survivors and some avoid the Damen Student Center during April entirely.
“As a survivor, it’s really hard for me to be reminded every single day this month when it’s my entire life every single day,” the junior said. “And I do appreciate that it raises awareness. I know the intentions are good.”
Neufelder said people can help fight rape culture by verbally supporting friends who are victims and calling out people who make offensive jokes.
“The language that is used [in rape jokes] actually empowers and creates a culture that condones gender-based violence,” Neufelder said.
Krivoshey said she thinks rape culture is still a problem at Loyola because it’s still an issue everywhere.
“It’s not something that is going to be eradicated through, you know, one training or one month of activity,” Krivoshey said. “It really requires all of us to say, … ‘Not on our campus. This is not going to happen on our campus. We’re not going to allow it. We’re not going to stand for it. It’s not acceptable here.’”
She said part of the problem is the media, including the pornography industry and Hollywood’s standards, but that Loyola can help students recognize the signs of rape culture and how to respond.
Krivoshey said Loyola tries to continue the conversation about gender-based violence throughout the year with its other programming on consent, active bystander training, stalking and other interconnected issues.