Taking steps against sexual assault
In solidarity to victims and survivors of sexual assault, more than 300 Grand Valley State University students marched around campus Tuesday, April 11, to support the GVSU Interfraternity Council’s (IFC) semiannual “Steps Against Sexual Assault” event.
The walk acts as part of April's Sexual Assault Awareness Month, an annual campaign designed to raise public awareness about sexual violence and how to act as an active bystander.
Participants battled the chilly temperatures and lined up by the Cook Carillon Tower at 7:30 p.m., where students walked silently around Mackinac Hall and back to the Kirkhof Center. Originally, the walk was called “Walk-A-Mile in Her Shoes,” but was changed nearly two years ago to support all gender identities who face sexual violence.
“Over the past two years, we realized that we didn't like that title as sexual assault can affect anyone,” said Joshua Woolard, IFC president. “Steps Against Sexual Assault is one of those events that should be important to everyone not just IFC.”
After the walk was complete, participants gathered in the Pere Marquette Room where keynote speakers Danielle Lucksted, Safe Haven Ministries prevention and education coordinator, and Mara Furlich, YWCA program coordinator, spoke about prevention and bystander intervention.
During the presentation, Lucksted and Furlich identified a 2012 GVSU survey that found 1 out of 4 women and 1 out of 10 men at GVSU were victims of rape or sexual assault. Addressing alcohol on college campuses, they further spoke with the audience about the role of alcohol, incapacitation and consent.
“When it comes to sexual assault we often talk about alcohol because it is typically present on college campuses,” Lucksted said. “Fifty percent of sexual assaults on college campuses involve alcohol. That’s massive.”
In addition, students asked questions on how to support victims and participated in a “fact or myth” portion of the talk, which covered the topics of victim blaming and rape culture.
During the past few weeks, members of the IFC tabled in Kirkhof to sell $1 buttons and collect donations, where proceeds will aid the Women's Center to allocate a sexual assault survivor fund.
The fund was coordinated by Ashley Schulte, victim advocate at GVSU, alongside Nicholas Kapusta, the IFC's programming chair, to support the financial needs of victims or survivors of sexual assault.
“This fund is a fresh new idea that Ashley and I came up with,” Kapusta said. “(The fund) will help survivors pay for the necessities they need to either live off, such as groceries and toiletries, or even paying for the aid they need to help get through the emotional point after the assault has taken place.”
Currently, the fund has no set goal amount but the IFC hopes others will be inspired to take action and support the cause as well.
As the 2017 Steps Against Sexual Assault saw record breaking numbers of attendees, Woolard hopes to continue this program for years to come. Reflecting on its efforts, he said the IFC is dedicated to the prevention of sexual assault at GVSU and plans to continue this advocacy through other programs, too.
“As a council, we have been speaking up against sexual assault for years,” he said. “We want the student body, campus administration and Greeks from all around to see that at Grand Valley we are being proactive in educating and preventing sexual assault.”