by Emily Carrigan–
On March 31, 2016, President Barack Obama stood in front of the nation and issued a proclamation that marked April as National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.
In this address, he urged citizens to unite and speak out to change the current culture of questioning the actions of victims, rather than their attackers. Katie Mey, the gender-based violence prevention coordinator at the Women’s Center at Virginia Tech, said it’s great to have allies in high positions battling sexual and gender-based violence.
“The campaign is called ‘It’s on Us’ so the things the White House is trying to do is provide resources that allow us to pick up the cards,” Mey said, adding that she appreciates how the government isn’t attempting to resolve the problem from the top, but is providing agencies and communities with support.
“Sexual violence is a community issue, a public health issue, an issue of justice,” Mey said. “I like the approach they’re taking.”
The Women’s Center at Virginia Tech provides an array of services with the objective of promoting a safe, equitable and supportive community that allows women to celebrate their achievements, experiences and diversity, their website states.
This year is the first year they have participated in Sexual Assault Awareness Month, or SAAM, and Mey credits Olivia Moulds, an intern at the center, with coordinating their awareness efforts.
“It’s a lot of work and we need a lot of hands to be present on campus … and we wouldn’t have reached the number of people without the help of our interns and our campus partners,” Mey said.
Partners include the Corp of Cadet’s Echo Company and ROTC students and staff.
Part of their efforts this month have included supply drives and percentage nights to benefit the Women’s Resource Center of the New River Valley.
“They provide a depth and range of service that we can’t provide around the community so we greatly appreciate them and want to support them,” Mey said.
The Women’s Resource Center of the New River Valley has been supporting victims of domestic violence and sexual assault since 1977 when its first office was opened in Christiansburg, Va.
In 1980, it relocated to a former youth home in Radford, Va, where the city council agreed to rent the facility to the center for $12 per year, which allowed them to begin to build a wider base for support and financial backing, their website states.
Since then, they were able to add a crisis-intervention sexual assault program, a victim and witness program to provide court information and advocacy for victims, a children’s program to provide services for children in the shelter with their mothers and a child sexual abuse program.
Both the Women’s Center at Virginia Tech and the Women’s Resource Center provide emergency advocates 24/7. These advocates aid victims by going to law enforcement agencies or to hospitals after an incident.
The Women’s Resource Center of the NRV also offer emergency shelter that can accommodate up to 26 women and children who are in crisis.