UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Some conversations aren’t easy to have. But the Women’s Resource Center is making sure talks about Sexual Assault Awareness Month isn’t one of them.
Throughout April, the center has hosted several events focused on the issue, all accessible online via Zoom. From lecture presentations to panels with people who work to survivors, and even film showings focused on the topic, everything has been free to the public. And the public has showed up.
“We’ve been getting a lot of feedback. People are really appreciative of the kinds of conversations we’re having,” said Women’s Resources Center Associate Director Jaya Kolisetty. “This year, not only are we living in a pandemic, but we also have the ongoing pandemic of racial inequality and racial violence.”
The center chose a theme to encompass all of that.
“We’re calling it Connecting the Dots, and we’re looking at sexual violence and racism. So really thinking about how other forms of harm like racism play into high rates of sexual violence, how does that contribute to barriers for survivors seeking support and services.”
This upcoming week will be focused on the activism of black women. Kolisetty said a colleague with the Women’s Resource Center will be doing a session with the Bruce D. Nesbitt African American Cultural Center that focuses on that topic. Not only that, but there will also be a film screening of the documentary The Rape of Recy Taylor.
Kolisetty said that looks at “not only experiences of sexual violence that black women have faced through that lense of Recy Taylor specific experience, but also thinking about the response and the way that black folks have mobilized and challenged sexual violence in so many different ways.”
She added the documentary also highlights the work of a well known civil rights icon: Rosa Parks. Parks was an advocate through the NAACP for survivors of sexual violence long before the Montgomery bus boycott.
“It’s important that we’re elevating those stories, that we’re thinking about highlighting the work that folks of color have done for so long to create safer environments, to address the needs of survivors, so that’s something we’ve been really excited to get to highlight this year,” said Kolisetty.