By Tracey Belizaire
In recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Florida A&M University assembled campus organizations, students, faculty and staff to support those who’ve been sexually assaulted.
The 2019 Silent March was recently held at FAMUs Eternal Flame. The march was created to shed light on sexual assault and to have a platform for those who’ve been abused to speak up and share their stories about their sexual assault experience.
The Office of Counseling Services partnered with campus organizations such as Active Minds Inc., S.I.S.T.U.H.S., Army ROTC, Alpha Kappa Alpha, and Voices Poetry Group.
The event began with a campus march that was silent to represent all of those who have been affected and muted because of their abuse. Supportive students held up posters throughout the march stating, “No means No” and “Consent is sexy” while they walked to advocate for those who’ve suffered from sexual assault.
After the first march several FAMU student survivors gave testimonials. More than six people stood up to tell their stories of surviving being assaulted, leaving people inspired, educated and encouraged.
Tanzania Ralph, sexual assault survivor, shared an experience she wrote about a year ago that had her in a place she mentally couldn’t get out of. After some time, she found that comfortable outlet to get her through.
“For me, it was writing. I couldn’t go to sleep so I’d pull out my laptop and just write and write,” said Ralph. She advises those who’ve been abused to seek help and find ways to express themselves with their healing process.
Any form of sexual assault not only hurts the victim, but their loved ones as well. Ralph’s friend, Mia Lewis, said, “It affected me and it definitely opened my eyes and made me a lot more understanding towards victims or survivors.”
Outreach Coordinator Dr. Chika Hooper coordinated the 2019 Silent March. Hooper speaks to victims and survivors on a daily basis, and she is not only proud of the outcome of the event, but of the students who shared their stories with the public.
“It makes me feel even more inspired to do the work that I do in the counseling center when I see students getting their voices back,” said Hooper. “I know after events like these, numbers in the counseling center will skyrocket.”
Hooper gave out certificates of appreciation to the survivors for sharing their stories and to the organization representatives who advocated for the survivors.
The event concluded with a final campus march in which supporters and survivors demonstrated victory by no longer being silent. The march was led by students chanting “I said no, and no means no! If there’s no consent, then you have to go!”
There are many resources and services for anyone in need of counseling. FAMU Office of Counseling Services is free to all enrolled students. The Refugee House is a local agency that provides support and counseling groups, and for any reporting. Victims of sexual assault can also report that with the FAMU Police Department, Tallahassee Police Department and Title IX.