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Shedding Light On Sexual Assault Awareness Month

By Mason Edwards, Staff Writer for the University Echo

To bring light to truth of sexual assault and resources available, the Center for Women and Gender Equity placed a lighthouse in the ARC. Saturday, April 9, 2022. Allie English, Assistant Photo Editor

On April 1, the Center for Women and Gender Equity rolled out their six-foot tall, two-dimensional lighthouse—and no, it was not an April Fools Prank.

As soon as a student sees a random lighthouse where it shouldn’t belong, the Center’s Assistant Director Lauren Ouwerkerk bets they will have questions– or at least try to get free merchandise.

The Center for Women and Gender Equity offers stickers, pamphlets, and pins to bring awareness to sexual assault and the resources available for survivors. Saturday, April 9, 2022. Allie English, Assistant Photo Editor

“We raise awareness by having a six-foot tall lighthouse, and we put it in different offices on campus, and ask students to take a photo with it,” Ouwerkerk explained. “If they take a photo with it, they get a free sweatshirt.”

Nearly 500 accounts viewed the first lighthouse post from @utcwage, and students rushed to find its first location. During April’s first week, WaGE stashed it in the Aquatics and Recreation Center, near the elliptical bicycles. Freshman Adrienne Meadows found it past the front doors.

“I wanted to support UTC Women and Gender studies and show support to survivors,” Meadows answered. “But I can’t lie, the free sweatshirt was appealing as well.” 

Freshman Kelly Kaczmarek posted a photo of it earlier in the week, not long after the Instagram reveal.

“I enjoyed seeing the representation about sexual assault awareness on display at a place I go to a lot,” Kaczmarek said. “I thought the table was set up really nice and it looked very professional.”

Ouwerkerk talked about the importance of awareness, especially during awareness months. She spoke from within the Center for Women and Gender Equity (WaGE) in Lupton Hall. Sitting at a coarse hardwood table, she pulled her mask up to her face and readied her pen— she took notes too. Elegant, movie-like posters of their successful events hung on the walls. Behind her, plush couches surrounded a television with a gaming console.

After celebrating Women’s History Month, WaGE plans to double-down on survivor messages during April’s Sexual Assault Awareness month. 

“Sexual Assault Awareness Month is the need to highlight stories and experiences, and also let people know about resources on campus,” Ouwerkerk said. “That sweatshirt is going around campus showing our logo, as well as the message ‘Believe Survivors,’ so they’re sharing that message across campus to other folks.”

WaGE will hide their lighthouse in a new spot each week. Last year, it moved from the Library, Aquatics and Recreation Center, University Center, and finally, their office in Lupton Hall.

“I think of our awareness months as all a keystone part of the work that we do,” Ouwerkerk summarized. “Without them, everything else falls to the wayside.”

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