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Key Themes

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Healthy relationships and interactions. Gender-based misconduct issues. Sexual respect.

Students are often unaware of what crosses the line between healthy relationships and harassment or abuse. With fear and stigma prevalent in the college community, many crimes go unreported. With the distractions and multitudes of options for students, it is easy to fall victim to pressures. Participants will learn how to be on guard, how to be an empowered, informed student, and what to do in the case of an assault or uncomfortable situation.

Rape myths/common misconceptions

Sexual assault knows no gender or age. One out of every six American women and one in 33 American men has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. Research shows that 90 percent of campus rapists are repeat offenders, averaging nearly six victims each who often go undetected. The issue of sexual respect is one that needs to be addressed and imminent. Students will learn common misconceptions regarding campus safety, bystander awareness, and what to do in uncomfortable situations. Colleges and even state penal codes define rape and sexual assault differently, but it’s generally understood as non-consensual sexual activity, which can be anything from penetrative sex to unwanted sexual touching or groping. Students will learn how to dispel common rape myths and become informed, empowered students in their community.

Dealing with the after-effects of sexual assault/harassment

For many survivors, the complex feelings of trauma, shame and powerlessness that accompany an assault can be followed by silence. Participants will identify responses to sexual trauma: Flight, Freeze, or Fight, as well as the debilitating impacts of trauma on humans – why we develop PTSD, and our response to trauma vs. a wild animal’s response to trauma, and how a survivor continutes to relive their abuse after the incident. What are the psychological effects of trauma? Symptoms of PTSD? Where does shame come from?
How does stigma, fear and shame affect a survivor? In answering these questions, we will also identidy symptoms such as Hypervigilance, Disassociation, Avoidance, Intrusive Memories, and Flashbacks.

Advocacy and activism

Advocacy on campus is a critical part of any community response. Participants wil learn how to respond a non-judgmental and supportive manner, as well as spread awareness on campus, educating, empowering and engaging fellow students

Role of bystanders

Bystanders play an essential role in creating a compassionate and safe campus. Participants will learn bystander intervention practices and and understand safe, effective ways to intervene in situations of sexual violence, intimate partner violence, stalking, and harassment. In frequent situations, the bystander – the roommate, the friend, the bartender, the acquaintance in line – has an opportunity to intervene and possibly offer the girl a way out. Through diffusion of responsibilities, bystanders can often remain inactive in a situation where an individual is in need of help. Many feel intimidated or unsure of what to do in a crisis situation, or worse, feel that the situation isn’t “that bad”. As Martin Luther Kind Jr. once said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Participantswill learn effective ways to support a peer who has been impacted by sexual violence and review resources available on campus. Through sexual respect, we can foster a supportive, compassionate community. When students identify their role in changing our culture, we can make it a safe and inclusive campus.

Building a support network

A strong community is essential for helping survivors break silence and free themselves of fear, shame and stigma. If we create an environment in which all community members can learn and participate free from sexual and gender-based misconduct, we can change our culture and create a safe, inclusive campus, collectively ending silence. Participants will learn how to bulid a support network of active listeners and supportive community members. Participants will learn how to start the conversation about healthy relationships, consent and sexual respect, and how each of us is responsible for sharing these practices.

Understanding and accessing resources on campus

In a 2011 NAMI study, that 64% of college dropouts were for mental health-related reasons, and that, of those, 50% never accessed any mental health programs or services. Understanding where to go for help is imperative for college students who have suffered an assault, and for those wishing to report or intervene. Participants will learn where to find campus resources for support, help, and reporting related to gender-based misconduct, and will be introduced to wellness and counseling faculty, discuss Title IX, as well as sexual assault and wellness resources on campus, opening the channel of communication between students and staff.

Power of sharing stories

For many survivors, the complex feelings of trauma, shame and powerlessness that accompany an assault can be followed by silence. It is our responsibility to help others use their voices, and to know it’s OK to talk about. Individuals may feel intimidated by the idea of talking about experiences of sexual abuse or gender-based misconduct. Yet their voices are essential to fostering a safe and empmowered community.. “There is so much shame about these issues that it’s hard to always gain a sense of how deep the problem is. Participants will learn that the root of courage is to tell who you are with your whole heart. Through sharing our story, we feel validated, human, empowered. Just hearing someone else’s story makes us feel the same pain or joy that they have experience. It’s sharing them that makes us stronger. Participants will learn the power and healing that comes from breaking silence. That’s how we know we’re not alone.

Mental, physical, and spiritual effects of PTSD/Trauma

The traumatic stress of sexual assault affects the brains rewiring. Our sensations of pleasure, engagement, control, and trust become entangled and we lose our confidence in what is “normal”. Participants will work to regain their sense of self-esteem, safety, strength and calm, by developing a resiliency toolbox. Those who have supported or may be supporting someone who has experienced trauma will want to learn more about trauma and healing from sexual assault or other sexual violence. In trauma, the idea of “freezing” and becoming “numb” is self-defense. Amy will provide tools for slowly “unthawing” from numbeness.

“Trauma is not caused by the event itself, but rather develops through the failure of the body, psyche, and nervous system to process adverse events…Prey animals in the wild are rarely traumatized despite routine threats to their lives. Yet human beings are readily traumatized. All mammals automatically regulate survival responses from the primitive, non-verbal brain, mediated by the autonomic nervous system. Under threat, massive amounts of energy are mobilized in readiness for self-defense via the fight, flight, and freeze responses. Once safe, animals spontaneously ‘discharge’ this excess energy through involuntary movements including shaking, trembling, and deep spontaneous breaths. This discharge process resets the autonomic nervous system, restoring equilibrium.” -“Waking the Tiger” by Peter Levine

Developing healthy coping skills. Victim and self blame/shame.
Developing healthy coping skills is essential to healing. Participants will be able to identidy coping mechanisms that once allowed them to survive a traumatic experience, which are now destructive behaviors that keep the individual stuck in the trauma. Participants will learn how to transform past coping skills and destructive behaviors into healthy tools they can use as an asset in the present.

Arts and Healing
Through art, we can find ways to channel our feelings in ways that may be too overwhelming or frightening for words. Art is a way to be with our emotions in a safe space without them overtaking us, and through our art, we have the power to transform our experience. Our fears, our joys, our struggles and triumphs can be transformed through art and understood in a primal, universal level to our community. Through poetry, spoken works, plays, art, photography, painting, music, dance and other means of creative expression, we can connect through our stories and build community understanding and support.

Further Writings on Sexual Abuse


It’s Okay to Freeze: Healing from Sexual Assault(Huffington Post)

Healing From Numbness (Sammiches & Psych Meds)

From Frozen To Free (Dropping Keys)

Music Therapy and Sexual Abuse

To the man who molested me when I turned 17 (Role Reboot)

Five Ways Everyone Can Participate in Sexual Assault Awareness Month (Huffington Post)

What to Say (and Not to Say) to a Survivor of Sexual Assault (Huffington Post)

Discovering “The Courage To Heal” (Original Monologue) (The Writing Life)

Why I Didn’t Testify Against the Man Who Abused Me Before My Coma (Huffington Post)

Expression Sets You Free: How Playwriting Broke My Silence on Sexual Abuse & Surgeries (Huffington Post)

PTSD: The Illness I Couldn’t See (Huffington Post)

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