April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. On the 16th, the Center for Women’s Studies honored this awareness campaign with a Brown Bag focused on supporting survivors of domestic and sexual assault. Emily Khazaee, Volunteer Coordinator and Advocate at Victims of Violence in Oneida, NY, Joanne Smith, Community Educator and Advocate at Victims of Violence, and Val Brogan, Colgate University Campus Safety Investigator discussed statistical realities of violence in Madison County. One of the panelists bravely shared her story of experienced childhood physical and sexual abuse. Another panelist explained the services that Victims of Violence offers. Val Brogan explained how Campus Safety and Victims of Violence intersect and work together in order to assist students who have been sexually assaulted. Val lent the powerful message that all Colgate students should feel safe on our campus, and encouraged reporting sexual assault incidences because an attacker can compromise this safe environment for the victim.
The COVE also supported the April Awareness month by hosting a Brown Bag entitled, “SVU: A Day in the Life of a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE).” This panel consisted of two female medical staff from the Oneida Healthcare Center who explained to the group how evidence is collected for a rape case – whether or not the victim decides to press charges – in the form of interviews about what the patient experienced and feels, as well as samples coming from the physical body.
I was particularly moved by a story that one of the panelists shared that explained where her motivation for this work initially came from, and why she pushed her hospital to offer these specialized resources for rape victims. One day while working at her hospital, she noticed that a young woman had come into the waiting room. It was a particularly busy day, and the young woman waited and waited, and when she was finally called in to the doctor’s office, she said that she had woken up in a strange place and “just felt weird down there." Because she was unable to describe any concrete event of violence or tangible/visible symptoms, she was sent home without treatment. This story is just one example that demonstrates the extreme importance of sexual assault nurse examiners. SANEs, like the two panelists, play an enormously important role in acknowledging the victim’s struggle, affirming the victim’s dignity, understanding the nuances and seriousness of the sexual assault, and examining the patient in an informed way that will hopefully lead to answered questions for the victim.
Throughout this month, and afterwards, I challenge you to think critically about sexual assault on our campus…acknowledge that it happens, ask why it happens…and then act – shine a light on acquaintance and date rape, open your mind and heart to supporting friends and peers who are survivors, and stand up against practices and behaviors that encourage rape culture and an unequal social climate.
More food for thought: