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Sexual Assault Awareness Week Recap

Several events were held to raise awareness and to help victims heal.

Last week, a series of events promoting healthy relationships and a culture of respect were presented as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Week (SAAW).

Students took part in hands-on events such as the Clothesline Project, a visual display of t-shirts made by students with messages about their own experiences or to honor other victims of violence; and Surviving in Numbers, for which students made and displayed posters about their experiences of violence using numbers to help tell their stories.

A Take Back the Night event held Wednesday provided a forum for survivors of assault to share their experiences in a supported environment, and energy healing, a showcase of artists’ work, and a healing journaling session were also offered.

The culminating event was Yards for Yeardley on Thursday, April 12. Students walked laps around the main plaza in honor of Yeardley Love and other victims of relationship abuse. Yards for Yeardley is part of a national effort by the ONE LOVE Foundation to raise awareness about the dangers of unhealthy relationships. Yeardley Love was 22 when she was killed by an abusive ex-boyfriend in 2010 while a student at the University of Virginia.

The SAAW planning team was honored to have staff from the ONE LOVE Foundation and Mrs. Sharon Love, the mother of Yeardley Love, on campus to kick off the event last week. This was the first year Purchase held a Yards for Yeardley event—one of more than 20 SUNY campuses that took part— and the team hopes to expand it next year.

Sharon Love and staff member from the One Love FoundationSharon Love and staff member from the One Love Foundation

Catherine Van Bomel, staff senior clinical social worker and victims advocate, and coordinator of victims assistance and education services, explains that awareness is a major objective for presenting these events. “We want to bring attention to the issues of sexual violence and to educate the community on ways to become involved in efforts to reduce and eliminate instances of interpersonal violence in the Purchase community,” she says.

Van Bomel also says the events are meant to help heal those affected. “We also provide survivors with a forum to bring their experiences out of the darkness and into the light in the hope of aiding them in the recovery process.”

Sexual Assault Awareness Week is the result of collaboration between many offices on campus, including the Counseling Center and their Leadership in Bystander Intervention interns, the Wellness Center staff and interns, Health Services, the Office of Community Engagement, the Purchase College Association, and University Police.

And special thanks to the outside organizations for their support: The ONE LOVE Foundation; Victim Assistance Services of Westcop; and the Westchester County Office of the County Executive.