Spring would not be spring without April dedicating itself to the end of sexual violence, as this month has been designated Sexual Assault Awareness Month (“SAAM“). The goal of SAAM is to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence.

In an effort to break the silence surrounding this oftentimes overlooked issue, Minnesota State University, Mankato offers a wide variety of events geared toward raising awareness and heightening interest amongst its student body. The events so far have included:

  • Trivia Night
  • Live performance from local band Sister Gin
  • Screening of Miss Representation
  • Sexual Assault Awareness Town Hall meeting
  • Violence-Free Zone Training
Former classmate and feminist activist, Kristie LaPlante, described her thoughts after watching the Miss Representation screening.

“After watching the movie I see how ads establish the problematic dimensions of what society is forgetting to hit on most. Sexual violence is a crime, it should be illegal in the media too,” said LaPlante.

Miss Representation is a film which examines how the media is playing a dangerous game of chicken when it comes to the sexualization of women in the media. In fact, last year alone the entertainment business spent over $100 billion dollars on internet and television advertisements alone, many of which inappropriately exploit women. To make matters worse, these figures do not include magazines, newspapers or billboard expenses.

“The media is very effective at creating stereotypes because it is sometimes the only source of information people have, said LaPlante. “It is scary, because I do not know how far advertisers will push the envelope just to make more revenue.”

Make no doubt about it, sex sells, but this game cannot last forever. Looking at the statistics alone, it becomes apparent that advertisements are spiraling out of control.

(This youtube video is put together by Ashley Dokken. The footage is from google images)

“When I talk to the Women’s Center I explain how worried I am as to what will happen in the future,” said LaPlante. “The line crossing between what is acceptable keeps being pushed back to drastic measures of dehumanizing women.”

MSU hockey player, Eli Zuck, takes pride in MSU’s attempts to talk about sexual violence openly. He was thrilled at the turnout and the outcome of  the events as many students and faculty shared optimistic beliefs for the future.

“Being optimistic is the only way to go. The media has learned not to use the word Negro and has now opted for African American. This is proof that the media can learn to reform its way of thinking with the sex sell theory,” said Zuck.

Women’s Center Interim Assistant Samantha Hedwall shares similar viewpoints with Zuck.

“My hope for the future is that SAAM won’t have to dedicate itself to just a month long event but that it will be an ongoing process of awareness throughout the entire year,” said Hedwall.

Consistent with the motto, “It’s Time…To Talk About It,” utilized by SAAM, MSU students are welcome to talk year round at the Women’s Center located on the second floor of the Centennial Student Union.

“Just because April is coming to an end, doesn’t mean the awareness for sexual violence has to end,” said Hedwall.

The Women’s Center is in charge of many events on campus including variety of speakers, seminars and workshops that the entire MSU community is welcome to attend. For example, every first Monday of the month is Women in Movies Day, where students are welcome to have some fun, watch a movie and discuss women’s issues about sexual violence.

“The movies are by far my favorite event. I get to take a break from the entire world and concentrate on the empowerment of women in society, said Women Studies major, Amanda Freeman. “It is nice to know there is a place at MSU that offers educational services like this.”

Education is crucial to the mission of ending sexual violence.  MSU helps create this experience by holding discussions with students about the resources it has to offer.

“The Women’s Center wants you to realize that none of you are alone in this situation. The college at MSU is a community that will stand up, hand in hand, with SAAM to create a society that provides year round outreach programs to end sexual violence for good,” said Hedwall.

The MSU Women’s Center is moving in the right direction; by having a college atmosphere that is not only supportive and safe, it also offers numerous outreach programs for students year round. Therefore it is nearly impossible to let the awareness end this month.

“The months ahead will be filled with opportunities to get involved, inspire change and to take action on the sexual violence that women go through everyday,” said Freeman “Even if the month of April is ending, the start to ending sexual violence is just the beginning.”

MSU and the campus Women’s Center get it. Likely unknown to a number of people, our school provides the much needed support and information to bring sexual awareness issues to the forefront.

The mont of April can be looked at as merely the announcement month for the services and opportunities provided by MSU. But as stated, the fact that “awareness” month is drawing to a close, the school and its professionals offer many services year round.

 For a timeline of the events that have occurred and the ones still to come click here.