Sexual assault awareness month at WMU

By Zoe Jackson | JRN 3200
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a national campaign that seeks to educate andraise awareness on preventing sexual violence. On Western Michigan University’s campus, the
theme for 2018 is “Consent is B.A.E” (Before Anything Else).
“This month is incredibly important. People really just do not get sexual assault. We hear about it, but it’s on TV or it’s a friend of a friend. But resources aren’t widely advertised. Real
stats aren’t either. People don’t realize it’s a daily reality, and that needs to change,” said Hailey
Pecic, student co-coordinator in the FIRE! Sexual Health Peer Education program.
On April 5, WMU President Edward Montgomery told MLive that campus “must remain vigilant,” in the fight against sexual assault.
“I do think WMU does a wonderful job on handling sexual assault. Just from working with administration in my sex-ed program and hearing about how it’s handled, Western really
does care,” Pecic said.
Different groups on campus have hosted a variety of events thus far in April, all leading
up to “Take Back the Night,” the main event on April 12.  The event “
aims to empower survivors of sexual assault through keynote speakers, a march through campus, and a speak-out from
survivors, supporters, and advocates,” according to their website.
This year’s event boasted around 70 attendees, said Amber Mosley, coordinator of sexual
assault prevention and education.
“It was our 11th annual year of this celebration and everything ran successfully. In
addition, we had some great speakers who were able to share educational and motivational
information about consent and ending sexual violence,” Mosley said. “It is my hope that
survivors of sexual violence and those whom support them were positively affected by the
event.”
Mikhayla Dunaj, sophomore and editor at the Western Herald attended last years event as press, but was surprised by how
emotional she found the speak-out.
“I think for me the most powerful thing in the middle of march we were in a circle and we all stopped and got to share an experience that we had if we had one,” Dunaj said.
Though Dunaj intended to maintain her distance as a reporter, the accepting environment gave her the courage speak up about a past abusive relationship.
“I went into it covering it, I didn’t think I was going to be sharing that night, and it was the first time I mentioned it at college. It was emotional for me. It’s really powerful to be surrounded by a bunch of women who are slowly learning to love themselves and know they are not alone in that,” Dunaj said.
To coincide with the month of April, some peer educators have focused their April presentations specifically on consent or Title IX reporting, said Pecic.
“But in every single thing we do, we have such a large emphasis on sexual assault prevention awareness, that really every month is sexual assault month for us, as cheesy as that sounds,” Pecic said.
Peer mentors like Pecic present in classrooms at WMU about sexual health; from birth control methods, to relationships or sexuality. Though students experience a diverse array of experiences, Pecic feels as though their work has contributed to a safer campus community.
“I have heard amazing stories of people partying and being taken care of, not taken advantage of, while drunk. Those aren’t stories in the minority. It’s the norm here,” Pecic said. Pecic’s view is influenced by the stories she’s heard from friends, and situations she herself has experienced, that could’ve gone bad, but didn’t, because she “was surrounded by WMU students.”
“From how I hear administration talk about the process of handling sexual assault, WMU truly does care. And I don’t think a lot of universities can say that.” Dunaj encourages campus to attend, not only to learn about consent, but to empower
survivors.
“I think it’s good to remind yourself of the idea of empowering women even with just the smallest of things; just saying “yes” because you want to say yes, not because society says you should say yes. It’s good to be reminded of that,” Dunaj said.
For more information on programming through the FIRE! Sexual Assault Peer Education
Program visit their website: http://www.wmich.edu/healthcenter/healthpromotion/
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