May 29, 2024

Voices of Gordon and CAIM Collaborate for Sexual Assault Awareness Month

McKenna Gregg 27'

Photo Courtesy of McKenna Gregg

“People with disabilities account for 12% of the total population. However, they accounted for 26% of all nonfatal violent crimes in the general population,” reported Reid Swetland, Associate Dean of Campus Engagement and Counselor in the Center of Student Counseling and Wellness. On April 11th, Voices of Gordon and CAIM came together to host an event called “Honoring All Voices.” It was a time of people with disabilities sharing their experience of sexual assault (SA) and domestic violence (DV).  

On arrival at the event, soft music played in the background and quiet chatter filled the atmosphere. When people sat down, they were greeted with coloring pages, colored pencils, and an array of different fidget toys. The atmosphere was calming and when the event began it severely contrasted with the content that began to be considered. As the stories were shared, there was time between them for a question to be discussed with the people sitting next to each other at a table. One question posed was “How can we advocate for people with disabilities who experience sexual assault and domestic violence?” while another one asked “What is one way you can bring awareness to underrepresented groups who experience SA and DV?” These conversations prompted attendees to debrief the information they learned. While heavy information did enter the space, the hosts made sure to have guests think of ways to advocate and help this population going forward. 

Photo Courtesy of McKenna Gregg

Following these narratives, Swetland shared statistics found when addressing prevalent rates of sexual assault and domestic violence within the population of individuals with disabilities. The numbers were striking compared to the rates that were associated with people without disabilities. Cassie Bucci ‘27, who attended the event said, “I think the most insightful section of the event was when Reid Swetland shared numerous statistics about people with disabilities being disproportionately impacted by SA and their stories being more likely to be overshadowed.” 

The month of April is recognized as “Sexual Assault Awareness Month” and campus groups at Gordon hosted multiple events this month to acknowledge this trauma and provide spaces of support. The “Honoring All Voices” event highlighted the struggle of the relationship between sexual assault and people who have disabilities, while other events have brought more generality to light. Such events included the “Gratitude: Worship Night” that happened at the beginning of the month and the tables that were giving away Sexual Assault Awareness Month bracelets at various sports home games. These events bring awareness to the issue while providing a space for reflection. 

“Most people do not realize how many students and young adults are impacted by SA, either directly or indirectly. Offering places where conversation about SA is prompted and encouraged creates a space on campus for active support and destigmatization, an extremely vital step in the recovery of many SA survivors,” stated Bucci. This month of guided events sparks essential conversations that are deeply needed on campus and can help survivors move forward. Support can still be shown this month by participating in Denim Day (on the last day of April) and going to “Hear Our Voices,” an event that will feature student and staff survivor testimonies. 

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