The Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program has been working tirelessly this month to spread our message of prevention and awareness through many different events. The main event was SHARPP’s 8th Annual Anti-Violence Rally & Walk. Luckily, Mother Nature cooperated, giving the UNH community a beautiful day to come out to support survivors. SHARPP staff and volunteers set up the great lawn with many informational tables. We welcomed Kathleen Grace-Bishop, the director of health education at Health and Wellness, as our keynote speaker, and we heard a few words from SHARPP director Amy Culp and prevention specialist Zak Ahmad-Kahloon. Another wonderful student assistant, Justin Poisson, and I gave a call to action. About 600 community members covered the great lawn. We are so grateful for the opportunity to hold this event every year and could not thank our sponsors and allies enough for stepping out to end violence with us.
Although we cannot measure the impacts that this event had on the people in attendance, here’s what we do know: About 600 people were thinking about the issues leading up to the event, during the event and probably after the event. If we can bring this awareness to just a fraction of our community, we have done our job. Sexual Assault Awareness Month creates these thoughts all month. Every time someone sees a social media post, a flyer or attends an event, for example, they are giving thought to the issue.
April highlights the way many advocates and educators think on a daily basis. I would like to give a little insight into the mind of an advocate going through a normal day. When I walk on campus, sometimes I look at the people standing on the sidewalk with me and think, “I know that there are survivors of sexual assault walking on this same sidewalk — one in four women and one in 10 men.” When I lived in the dorms, if I heard anything that sounded unusual, no matter what time of day or night, I was out in the hallway, listening to make sure everyone was OK. If I can do something to prevent someone from having a bad experience, I will without question go out of my way to make sure that one less person feels the hardships that come with being assaulted.
Living life as a survivor is often times invisible. When we see survivors, we cannot label them, because we do not know what they have experienced. Sexual Assault Awareness Month exists to make survivors and their needs visible. Here at SHARPP we emphasize that we will always believe you, we will always support you and we will always put you in the driver’s seat of your situation, because this is just the start of what you deserve.
We need to continue to talk about these issues outside of the month of April. We cannot hold back anymore. Sexual assault is an epidemic, and it affects members of this community every single day. As wildcats, we care about one another, and we all deserve to have someone watch out for us, whether we are strangers or best friends. Here at UNH, it should be our standard to hold people accountable for unacceptable behavior, to call them out and ensure that they know disrespect will not be tolerated here.
To finish out the month of April, we hosted two One Love workshops. The One Love Foundation honors the memory of Yeardley Love, who was beaten and killed by her ex-boyfriend just before her college graduation. One Love educates people on knowing the signs of an abusive relationship and on how to safely intervene and help end relationship abuse. We will continue to do residence hall programs through the end of the school year on many different topics. If you would like to host a program for your hall or organization, check out a list of options on our website, and stay educated, Wildcats!
Thanks for reading! Keep spreading awareness during April and beyond!