Sexual Assault Awareness in a Pandemic

Last month’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month looked different from past years.

Instead of group shots on Denim Day, the TSS Group found ourselves piecing together photo montages from different corners of Denver and the world.

TSS Denim Day

Instead of showing up to events focused on consent or what it means to start by believing, we’ve found ourselves hanging out in virtual spaces. For example, I did a video for Denver’s Start by Believing Campaign. The video summarizes some of the advice we heard from more than 200 women who disclosed sexual assault to a victim service provider (such as medical professional, police officer, counselor, victim advocate).

dpd

Pictures and videos are important. But they aren’t the same as talking with people about sexual assault. That’s why our team also used DU’s A Community Table program to facilitate an action-oriented online discussion about sexual assault.

A Community Table was modeled after the Chicago Community Trust’s On the Table program to promote civic and civil conversations about important public issues. The goal of DU’s program is to get people to host small-group conversations focused on issues we care about in our communities to identify ways we can work together for sustainable change. Any feedback that people share from those conversations then guides the next steps in DU’s university-wide initiative: DU Grand Challenges.

A Community Table seemed the perfect platform for conversation because we need to talk about sexual assault as much now as ever – and it is way past time for change. Turns out, that’s exactly the focus of this year’s A Community Table theme: How do we overcome barriers to take action together?

I grabbed the host guide and used the conversation prompts to talk in new ways with student researchers from our team about sexual assault. The students identified lots of barriers that they see getting in the way of people taking action around sexual assault — everything from the pressures people feel to be quiet and taboos to the impact that leaders and institutions have on amplifying or silencing conversations.

The students had some great ideas, too, for what we can do differently together. We sent those ideas to DU’s A Community Table team so that the students’ voices are part of DU Grand Challenges going forward.

A Community Table is a potentially powerful way to keep conversations going about sexual assault past April. I can attest that it’s really easy to host a conversation because the DU Grand Challenges team has built up lots of user-friendly resources. A facilitation guide suggests questions and gives tips on how to effectively facilitate online conversations. There’s a training video if you want one, information on online tools for hosting the conversation, and more!

A Community Table runs through June 11, so there’s still time to host a conversation about taking action on sexual assault — or other issues you care about. I hope you’ll check it out!