On April 11, Counseling Outreach Peer Education (COPE) and the Sexual Assault Resource Team (SART) hosted their first annual sexual violence awareness event since 2019, after prior cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The event, titled Raising the Flag, took place at the Rock from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and featured musical performances and poetry readings about the impact of sexual exploitation, as well as finding strength after sexual assault.
The performances concluded with a guided meditation led by Theresa Davison of UM Mindfulness and COPE, as well as a recitation of a pledge to end sexual violence led by students Christian Weiman and Emily Connell.
Student organization “It’s On Us,” the Sandler Center and the University of Miami Police Department all partnered with COPE and SART for the event and hosted tables with resources and education for students.
COPE’s annual sexual assault awareness event was ‘Walk a Mile in Her Shoes’ in previous years, but the organizers want to ensure the event is gender inclusive, noting that sexual assault can be perpetrated against anyone.
The new event distributed small red flags to those in attendance. People could write a note of encouragement on the flag or share anything pertaining to how sexual assault impacted their lives.
Everyone who wrote on a flag walked the path to the left of the famous “U” statue and placed their flag in the ground at the end of the event. The flags will line this path for the rest of the week along with signs displaying sexual assault statistics to raise awareness of its prevalence.
COPE and SART are both part of the University of Miami Counseling Center. SART focuses specifically on sexual assault and is run by graduate students, while COPE covers a range of mental health issues through peer education.
The COPE table featured an activity that asked students to read brief descriptions of different scenarios relating to violence, harassment and abuse, and consider whether outlined peer responses to those scenarios were appropriate or should be changed.
Madeline Mangas—a vocal performance master’s student, the counseling center graduate assistant and COPE co-advisor—shared that the goal of the activity is to educate and break the stigma around talking about experiences with assault and harassment.
The Sandler Center shared information about consent at its table, displaying a sign that said, “Consent is like FRIES: Freely-Given, Reversible, Informed, Enthusiastic, Specific.”
“There are a lot of elements of consent, but the most important thing is that all elements are present,” Sydney Reavely, a sophomore majoring in global health, said. “It’s a conversation that we all need to be having.”
“It’s on Us” encouraged students to fill out the Campus Climate Survey, a questionnaire created by the Title IX office. It provides a way for students to share their thoughts on what the campus is doing well and where it’s falling short, what resources they are aware of and what resources they think should be provided or better publicized.
“It’s on Us” also provided strips of paper for students to write notes of support for survivors of sexual violence. Gianna Milan, an ambassador and new program coordinator for the student organization and junior majoring in music performance and journalism, informed TMH that the group gathered these notes at all of their tabling events this semester.
The student organization is hosting their event “Take Back the Night” this Friday. Survivors can share their stories if they choose and participate in activities centered on healing, meditation and self-care. The notes will be distributed to survivors during the event.
Dylan Smith, a sophomore majoring in marketing, was able to catch the end of the event and said the pledge recited after the performances stuck out to him.
“Especially the part where they said to … stop the casual sexual assault jokes,” Smith said.“I think those are super popular on campus and just among the age group, so I think the pledge to do that specifically is a step I wouldn’t have thought they would take.”
Smith believes the step is necessary and was happy it was addressed at the event.