On the weekend of April 27-28, 111 white and 23 red flags waved in the wind on a freshly mown portion of the Quad in front of the Yates-Gill College Union. The flags were a visual representation of the statistical amount of victims of sexual assault on William Jewell College’s campus – white representing female victims and red representing male victims.
Dr. Tricia Hager, director of Office Counseling Services (OCS), heard about the Flag Project from the University of Arkansas and decided to bring the initiative to Jewell’s campus.
“The Flag Project is meant to highlight the impact sexual assault has, particularly on college campuses. Current statistics support that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 16 men are impacted by sexual assault on a college campus every single year,” Hager said. “The Flag Project is meant to represent a visual demonstration of the number of students on our campus that was impacted by sexual assault.”
The feedback Hager has received from it has been largely positive. Some students indicated that they were surprised that instances of sexual assault on campus were displayed so clearly – and so publicly – on the Quad.
“I think it’s important for the whole community on campus to see it for us to come together and realize that sexual assault impacts all of us in some way and that it’s our responsibility as community members to support one another,” Hager said. “And I think it’s a nice way to illustrate that people are not alone as well. Particularly for survivors, it can be such a lonely experience for them… A vast number of students on this campus and in this community share those experiences with [them].”
Hager iterated the importance of prevention – a proactive effort – as opposed to reaction – a passive afterthought – in matters concerning sexual assault, believing the Flag Project to be an effective way to force sexual assault awareness into the forefront of campus community members’ minds.
This event was among the last held in April, Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Several other initiatives were headed by OCS earlier in the month.
One of these events was Denim Day, in which OCS asked students to don denim apparel April 24 to show their support for sexual assault victims. The significance behind wearing denim on this day as a symbol of solidarity stems from an Italian Supreme Court decision in which a rape conviction was overturned because the court figured that, since the victim wore tight jeans, she would have to help her assaulter remove them, and thus had given consent by doing so.
A few times throughout the month, OCS set up in the Union to spread sexual assault awareness directly to students passing through the building. The campaign for this year focused on the concept of consent.
OCS also partnered with MOCSA, Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault, to host a movie night. There students were invited to watch the film “Audrie & Daisy,” a documentary following the aftermath of sexual assault cases from the perspectives of two survivors. After the viewing, MOCSA led a discussion about sexual assault on college campuses with the attendees.
Though sexual assault awareness month is over, OCS is still working hard to support the mental and spiritual wellness of the campus community. A “Fuel up for Finals” event intended to help students relax and decompress before buckling down for final exams will be held May 9.