Week to End Violence promotes empowerment

Vanessa Marcano

Vanessa Marcano

Next time you are in class or grabbing lunch at The Union, notice how many of your classmates and friends are female: the women you cheered for during the SDSU vs. USD basketball game, the classmate you saw perform in her traditional dress at International Nite, the friend who helped you mend your heart with cupcakes and Wedding Crashers.

Any one in four of them will be sexually assaulted during her college career; one in three, globally, will be subject to any form of violence, simply because she is female.

In an effort to not only raise awareness, but also empower and involve individuals in finding a solution to the issue, the Campus Women’s Coalition is hosting the Week to End Violence against Women, said Catherine Grandorff, graduate student and one of the organizers of the event.

CWC will have a booth from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with information on the different activities they will be hosting each day from April 19 through 24.

“The Week to End Violence against Women is not just a reaction to the recent assaults reported on campus; it is a real issue that happens, even here in Brookings,” said Grandorff.

“It’s our problem. We either are women or have a woman in our life that we love, and we have a responsibility to end violence against them.”

Alongside the American Humanics student group, CWC will be featuring its version of The Clothesline Project, a clothesline display of shirts decorated to tell a woman’s story &- whether she is a survivor, a loved one or anyone wishing to express his or her feelings on the issue of violence against women. The shirts will be hung in The Union during the week and students are encouraged to participate by designing their own shirts to place on the display.

The featured T-shirts have been designed by families and women in the Brookings Domestic Abuse Shelter who wanted to share their experience, said Niki Hoese, assistant director of the facility.

According to the Clothesline Project Web site, the shirts’ colors have different meanings: white honors women who have died as result of violence, yellow for victims of assault, red, pink and orange for survivors of rape or sexual assault, blue and green for survivors of incest or sexual abuse, purple for women attacked due to sexual orientation and black for females victimized for political reasons.

Two films will be featured during the week-long event: One in Four on April 21 and Welcome to the Party on April 22 at 7 p.m. in Rotunda E, with discussion after the screening. The first film talks about men’s role in ending violence against females, while the second centers on sexual assault at parties.

“Men can stop rape. They are an important part to the solution; they can be a source of support, empathy and love,” Grandorff said. “To them I say, “be outraged that this is happening, be angry and fight this’. [Those engaging in violence] are giving you a bad name.”

Additionally, there will be three sessions on self-defense training, led by SDSUPD officer Cora Olson. Attendees who have already signed up will choose between April 13 or 14; April 19 or 20 and April 21 or 22 to learn techniques on fighting or avoiding an attack.

Grandorff, who was part of the pilot program of self-defense classes, said she learned many practical things in these sessions, but the most important thing was the empowerment she felt after attending. “I learned that I am powerful, that I have strength. I also learned to get in the mind of an assailant, understanding how they work,” she said.

Nevertheless, Grandorff warned that despite taking self-defense classes, nobody is ever immune to assault. “It is never your fault; it is always the assailant’s fault.”

The Week to End Violence against Women will culminate with two active events on April 24. At 10 a.m., there will be a 5K Run/Walk kicking off in downtown Brookings where SDSU students can support the Brookings Domestic Abuse Shelter by registering for $10 a half hour before the walk.

Hoese said that the 5K is a good way, especially for men who wish to get involved, to support a cause while at the same time enjoying a nice day.

“We want their support, to make a statement that violence is wrong, that they are a part of the solution,” Hoese said, adding that this is one of the reasons why the shelter’s board is comprised of both men and women.

That day, at 7 p.m., CWC is hosting a Take Back The Night rally starting on the west side of The Union, where participants will walk through campus and finish at the Volstorff Ballroom for a free dance.

The Brookings Domestic Abuse Shelter, which assisted more than 400 individuals and had 2,160 client contacts via phone or in person in 2009, is also hosting events. On April 21, from noon to 1 p.m. at the Days Inn, the shelter will have a fundraising luncheon featuring SDSU alumnus and author VJ Smith’s lecture on “The Exceptional Employee.”

Hoese said that this month, Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the shelter has also been distributing informational materials, cooperating with CWC and hosting presentations about the issue in the Brookings community.

“Why do we have something called “the rape lot’ on campus? Why should women be afraid to walk alone at night? It is unacceptable,” said Grandorff. “We have to empower both women and men to see they do everything they can to change the cultural climate on violence against women.”