April is nationally recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This year’s campaign theme, “I Ask,” is focused on the importance of consent in sexual relationships.
The Bloomington-Normal community and Illinois State University will host a series of events throughout the month to bring awareness to the issue.
YWCA Stepping Stones is one of the many organizations that will set up programs throughout the month to help community members learn how to ask for consent and how to recognize it.
Stepping Stones Coordinator of Advocacy Services Jen Golliday thinks that bringing awareness is important for people to become educated on sexual assault.
“Awareness is something that has been improving,” Golliday said. “It’s a hot topic right now in a good way because people are talking about it now. It’s important to talk to the people in your community about it and continue spreading your knowledge.”
Golliday explained that getting people to understand the importance of sexual assault is a challenge.
“It’s important to understand that every situation is unique and not all sexual assault cases are the same,” Golliday said. “Getting people to understand that sexual assault exists is probably one of the biggest challenges, especially on college campuses.”
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, nearly two thirds of college students experience sexual harassment.
Though sexual assault continues to be an issue on college campuses, a survivor believes that more students are willing to spark a conversation about it.
“I think something that’s changing is that there are more conversations about these issues,” they said. “We’re opening up to it and becoming more conscious of it and I think that’s the first steps we can take.”
They believe that it’s important for students to show support to survivors by giving them a space to share their stories.
“As bystanders we need to make sure we aren’t using our voice to overpower a survivor’s because their stories are important and should be heard,” they said.
“It’s important for survivors to realize that we deserve to be loved. We’re human beings, we matter in this world and the space that we take up in this world matters to.”
To reach the Stepping Stones 24-hour hotline, call (309) 827-4005.