Empowering Survivors and Educating Allies

Sexual violence awareness week at Evergreen

By Nix Chace

The week of April 25 was Sexual Violence Awareness Week at Evergreen hosted by the Coalition Against Sexual Violence (CASV). This week is designed to bring awareness of the issue of sexual assault on this campus to the Evergreen community and to empower survivors on campus and in the greater Olympia area. There were daily workshops and events on campus. Each workshop served the purpose of bringing awareness, educating the community, or simply allowing survivors a space to safely share their stories.

On Monday, Olympia organization, Partners in Prevention Education (PiPE), led a workshop on supporting survivors of sexual and domestic violence. Student Keon Berlin recounts an important lesson from the PiPE workshop, saying, “One thing I remember that was said, was that being believed is the number one factor in survivors having a healthy and stable recovery.”

On Tuesday, Apr. 26 a self-care and healing with plants workshop was held to empower survivors at the Garden-Raised Bounty (GRuB) farm in Westside Olympia. The Flaming Eggplant held a workshop that Thursday called Border Violence: Imperial Erasure, in which sexual violence on indigenous land was addressed in the context of the United States/Mexico border. Closing out the week on Friday, Evergreen student Alya Toquinto led a creative writing workshop entitled: Poetry for Reclamation. This workshop served as a way to help survivors heal together and reclaim language.

On Wednesday of Sexual Violence Awareness Week, the Clothesline Project was displayed on Red Square, serving as a way to bring justice for survivors. The project is an event where t-shirts are displayed on clotheslines so passers-by may read the stories of survivors of sexual and domestic violence. It was an emotionally intense display that brought survivors together for empowerment and support. The shirts were designed by anonymous survivors at Evergreen who wanted to share their stories. There was a station in the center of the display where shirts were being made and advocates were available for support. It served as a way to safely and anonymously confront perpetrators of sexual assault.

“There is no accountability for rapists and perpetrators, and this is a way for people to be seen” says Hel Dastvan, CASV coordinator, who I sat and talked with about The Clothesline Project and Sexual Violence Awareness Week before it began.

“This week is such a small part of the conversation we need to be having about sexual assault.” Dastvan continued to say when talking about the lack of support Evergreen provides for survivors of sexual assault.

The events of Sexual Violence Awareness Week are aimed at education and awareness for the community, as well as The Clothesline Project which also exists as a safe space for survivors to tell their stories and for allies to listen. I was interested in hearing further what Dastvan had to say about Evergreen’s role when it comes to issues of sexual violence and supporting survivors on this campus.

“Evergreens lack of stance on accountability for perpetrators promotes an environment where sexual violence can happen.” Dastvan stated.

The only resources for survivors on Evergreen’s campus is the Office of Sexual Violence Prevention and CASV. The Office of Sexual Violence Prevention has upset members of Evergreen’s community when it comes to addressing the issue of sexual violence.

For example, gender-nonconforming students have criticized the installation of the display of flags on red square that has recently been taken down. The flags represented the number of hypothetical assaults that could happen on Evergreen of cisgender men and women on a national scale. This ignores the issue of assault that is happening on Evergreen’s campus by not displaying any data to show the number of assaults actually happening on campus. The only representation of transgender students in the display was shown by a small flyer stating that the office has no data on any trans students assaults. The office has shown no interest in changing this fact and continues to show no data for trans students on Evergreen’s campus or on a national scale.

Speaking more regaurding the ignorant approach the Office of Sexual Violence Prevention (OSVP) has when it comes to engaging with survivors, Dastvan says, “A certain office has been putting up triggering flyers on campus… it goes to show how distant they are from the emotional process of survivorship”.

Some students felt that flyers the OSVP put up in an effort to promote reporting sexual violence used violent language and phrases that could trigger its target audience. A group is now organizing to take them down and confront the administration.

“As a survivor, seeing that as the school’s way of addressing this issue is so insensitive.” Dastvan later remarked.

The irony of this situation only serves as a reminder of the little support survivors are receiving at this school and further demonstrates the importance of Sexual Violence Awareness Week and student groups like CASV. Due to Evergreens lax stance on the issue through their lack of resources and refusal to gather inclusive data on student assaults is a large factor in why CASV exists. Students have had to come together to support one another under an administration that would rather sweep issues of sexual assault under the rug.

Besides hosting Sexual Violence Awareness Week, the Coalition Against Sexual Violence pays for Safe Place Advocacy training for people who wish to be trained advocates and join the CASV team.

“If you’re a student who will be at Evergreen for a year or more, join our advocacy team, let us pay for your training!” Dastvan said when speaking about ways people can support CASV.

CASV hosts workshops throughout the school year that are open to students and non-students alike, workshops can vary from topics of healing and survivorship to educating allies who want to help work against sexual and domestic violence. Let CASV know what interests you, and the team will do their best to make it happen. Advocates are available by appointment or through walk-in hours which are Monday through Thursday from 12 to 3 p.m.