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Sexual assault awareness month inspires victim exhibition for healing

April marks National Sexual Assault Awareness month and this year, Mills College plans to host an event to raise awareness, honor assault victims and help them heal.

Health and Wellness Director Kim Baranek, Wendy Dutton, Highland Sexual Assault Center’s Coordinator of Rape Prevention and awareness artist Joe Schnieder teamed up with the students from the Women’s Health Resource Center (WHRC) to curate an art exhibit, which will be held in the Student Union April 12 to 14.

The exhibit will consist of large portraits of sexual abuse victims, accompanied by audio recordings of victims recounting their experiences.

“There will be 11 women and three men for a total of 14 people in the exhibit,” Schnieder said.

The WHRC, Public Safety officers and the Wellness Center will offer resources and advice during lunchtime hours each day. Counselors will also be on site to address student questions. The Vagina Friendly Club and staff from the Division of Student Life and Student Activities will be tabling as well.

On April 13, a reception will be held for participants, followed by a panel.

“The focus for discussions during this time is to look at the healing process for victims,” Dutton said. “We want students to look at what resources are available to them.”

Another activity called Take Back the Night is scheduled to take place in Adams Plaza. This event was initially organized in the 1970s as the first political action to raise awareness about women’s safety in public, according to Baranek, though she did not know what day the event would be.

Take Back the Night is also a nonprofit which is organizing a nationwide candlelight vigil April 29 called 10 Points of Light.

Attendees may also participate in Denim Day April 21, an annual event in support of a young woman in Italy who was raped by her driver’s education teacher in the 1990s. In the trial that inspired Denim Day, the courts ruled that the rape was consensual because the young woman was wearing tight denim jeans. To protest the ruling, female legislators wore jeans and deemed the day Denim Day, eventually leading to the decision being overturned.

Each year women across the country wear denim on this day in solidarity.

Coordinators for Sexual Assault Awareness Day hope to break the silence surrounding rape and abuse. Their goal is to alleviate the stigma attached to abuse through education and to create a supportive environment that will help victims heal.