April events promote sexual assault awareness, child abuse prevention

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). Penn State, as a partner with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), is continuing its efforts to increase public awareness, education and research toward greater prevention of and response to sexual violence. Several events at Penn State campuses are being held in conjunction with SAAM's 2012 campaign theme, "It’s time ... to talk about it."

The month-long theme focuses on promoting positive expressions of sexuality and healthy behaviors. The SAAM Day of Action on Tuesday, April 3, will highlight nationally coordinated events to raise public awareness about sexual violence and specific ways people can get involved in its prevention.

"This year’s theme for Sexual Assault Awareness Month encourages communities and individuals to join the conversation on how we connect and respect one another in order to prevent sexual violence. Promoting healthy behaviors encourages interactions and relationships that are consensual, respectful and informed," said Kristen Houser, PCAR vice president of communications and development. "By starting the conversation, this dialogue can build safe, healthy relationships."

The University is strengthening ongoing efforts to promote education, research and conversation about mutual respect and healthy sexuality through scheduled events and educational initiatives in progress. Several events are being held in collaboration with community and national organizations.

Penn State's Center for Women Students and the Department of Women's Studies, along with the Centre County Women's Resource Center, are presenting a three-day "teach-in" of educational, scholarly and community events. Held April 2-4 at the University Park campus, the teach-in is titled "Feminist Responses: Sexual Assault, Social Power, Personal Healing." A full list of teach-in events is at http://live.psu.edu/story/58814.

Because April also is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, the same three organizations will host a panel discussion following an encore State College screening of the documentary film "In a Town This Size" at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 3, at the State Theatre. The award-winning film -- filmmaker Patrick Viersen Brown's personal narrative of his sexual abuse as a child, as well as other childhood victims, their families and professionals -- was previously screened in State College in January. Members of the Women's Resource Center and the women's studies department will facilitate a post-film discussion.

Also on April 3, from noon to 1 p.m., Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) will offer the program "Healing from Childhood Abuse" in room 106 of the HUB-Robeson Center.

Screenings of a second documentary, "Boys and Men Healing," will be held at 7 p.m. April 3, at Penn State Altoona's Misciagna Theater, following a 6 p.m. reception, and at 7 p.m. April 4 at University Park's HUB Auditorium. Both screenings will include with a panel discussion afterward, including health professionals from Penn State Altoona's Health and Wellness Center and Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and representatives from the national nonprofit organization MaleSurvivor, which are cosponsoring the events.

A collection of SAAM and National Child Abuse Prevention Month events scheduled across all Penn State locations is available at http://live.psu.edu/story/58817.

Also as part of Penn State’s partnership with PCAR, a team has been formed that is focused on developing and delivering professional development programs to Penn State employees on the topic of child/sexual abuse and mandatory reporting. Plans are in progress to begin providing some specific training workshops for summer programs such as sports camps and academic summer camps, while development of a more robust online program for all University employees continues. This initiative is being organized through the Office of Human Resources but is a collaborative effort involving multiple University partners.

Several resources are available to students who have experienced sexual assault. This year, the Division of Student Affairs introduced the Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Hotline, which is managed by CAPS and was established for victims and observers of sexual assault and relationship violence. Trained counselors on the hotline will help students access appropriate resources. Penn State students from any campus can call 1-800-550-7575 (TTY 866-714-7177) to access the hotline, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In addition, the Center for Women Students has coordinated activities with several of Penn State's Commonwealth Campuses and has collected sexual assault resources information for each campus online, which is available at http://studentaffairs.psu.edu/womenscenter/resources/ccsar.shtml.

At University Park, students have several options available to report and find help in dealing with sexual assault. The Centre County Sexual Assault Response Team, or SART, program is a multidisciplinary, interagency partnership of service providers on campus and throughout Centre County who collaborate closely to offer victims assistance with health, legal and social intervention services in a safe, supportive, non-judgmental environment. On campus, the Coalition to Address Relationship and Sexual Violence (CARSV) provides a network of support services. Members include University Health Services (UHS), Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), the Center for Women Students, University Police, the Office of Student Conduct, Residence Life, Fraternity and Sorority Life, Athletics, as well as representatives from Student Affairs, Commonwealth Campuses, the Centre County Women’s Resource Center, faculty and students. This group works across all of Penn State’s campuses and connects with the University registrar, bursar's offices and faculty members to make sure that student victims are able to access all available services. Any of these providers could be a student victim's first point of contact in seeking help, and each of them can assist students with any needs.

A detailed list of resources for addressing sexual assault and relationship violence is available at http://live.psu.edu/story/58813.

"It's difficult to talk about sexual assault, and it makes sense that historically people have been reluctant to do that," said Lorah of the Center for Women Students. "But what's true -- and possibly a benefit, if there could be one, as a result of recent horrible events in our community -- is that we've had to talk about it. There are so many people in our families, in our friendship networks, among people we know and talk with and interact with every day who are dealing with this as an issue, and we don't even know it because it's something that is very difficult to talk about. So getting the word out and having it be something that's on everybody's radar is crucial. While I would never have chosen for something like this to happen, it does happen every day, and now people are beginning to think of that in a different way."

For more information about Sexual Assault Awareness Month, call the National Sexual Violence Resource Center at (877) 739-3895 or email resources@nsvrc.org.

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Last Updated April 17, 2012