Story by Abby Siegel, Assistant News Editor
The color teal is associated with feelings of calmness, loyalty, wisdom and joy, but for many the color represents something much more personal.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness month, and throughout the month the color teal is used to bring awareness to the issue and show support for survivors.
“This is a new year for me,” said Hannah Barney, graduate student and Lee Clark Residential College residence director.
Barney is a survivor of sexual assault.
In the past, she said this month was hard for her as it continuously highlights the issue and can bring up past feelings of the incident.
According to a report by the National Institute of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics on sexual victimization of college women, it is estimated that for every 1,000 women attending a college university there are 35 incidents of rape each year.
“It sends you into a dark hole,” Barney said. “It’s a deep, dark place and sometimes people don’t make it through it.”
Through counseling at the Women’s Center, finding forgiveness and encouragement from friends and family Barney said she has found her voice and charisma again.
“I realized people value me and I need to start valuing myself again,” Barney said.
She began speaking on behalf of those who aren’t comfortable to speak out, recently speaking at the annual Take Back the Night event – a rally to show support for those who have been impacted by sexual violence – after being encouraged to share by the Women’s Center director, Abigail French.
“We should always take care of the people who can’t take care of themselves,” Barney said. “And that was me for a while.”
Barney has used her residence director position to advocate within her residential college by having residents stand before a teal backdrop holding a wipe-off board where they finished the sentence, “I wear teal because…” The residents had their pictures taken, which were then added to the Lee Clark Residential College Facebook page.
Residents wrote statements like “I wear teal because no one should feel worthless” and “I wear teal because anyone can be a victim.”
“It is OK to be upset, but it’s OK to use your voice,” Barney said. “It is your story, so you choose what you do with it.”
Teal ribbons were handed out to students starting April 1 both in the Curris Center and in front of Carr Health to encourage students to take part in bringing awareness.
Kaylee Noel, sophomore from St. Louis, handed out ribbons on the Carr Health Lawn as part of her internship with the Purchase Area Sexual Assault Child Advocacy Center in Paducah, Kentucky.
Noel had a male friend in high school who was sexually assaulted and she said this encouraged her to advocate on this issue through an internship and one day a career.
“I thought, ‘What can I do about this?’” Noel said. “I wanted to stand up to make a change.”
CHANGING THE CULTURE
Murray State’s Public Safety and Emergency Management is required to send out emails to all students when a sexual assault occurs on or off campus and is reported to them.
“I think it’s really good that we are aware of what goes on on-campus,” Barney said. “When you don’t know what’s going on, you don’t know what is an issue.”
Barney said she thinks the conversation should focus not only on rape prevention, but also on consent and making survivors feel safe to talk about what happened.
“The way we talk about it needs to change to make victims feel like it wasn’t their fault,” she said. “When we see something, you need to say something.”
The Murray State Women’s Center has launched a social media campaign “It’s on Us Week of Action: #CultureofRespect Challenge” to encourage all students to advocate during the month.
The campaign stems from the challenge established by the Culture of Respect nonprofit that partners with Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education to equip universities with tools to eliminate rape and sexual assault from their campuses.
The challenge runs April 4 to April 8 and requires participants to join the #CultureofRespect Challenge Facebook event and then take a picture or video of themselves answering the question, “What does a Culture of Respect mean to you?” Participants are encouraged to upload the video to the Facebook event and their own social media accounts using hashtags #CultureofRespect and #SAAM2016.
“Thank you to all people who have stood up and been an ally to all survivors,” Barney said.