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Week to raise awareness of sexual assault

In observance of national sexual assault and domestic violence awareness month, student organizations around Grounds are coming together in a series of workshops, presentations and panels next week.

Although the entire month of October is devoted to the promotion of sexual assault awareness, on-Grounds activities are focused on one week -- Oct. 21 to 25.

Throughout the week, the Monticello Area Clothesline Project will display over 40 shirts made by survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. The shirts will be hung at the lower end of the Lawn in front of Old Cabell Hall.

Claire Kaplan, sexual assault education coordinator for the University, described the display as a "visual depiction of the impact of sexual violence."

Kaplan said she hopes that by publicly exhibiting personal testimonies, the Clothesline project will give the University community a "surprise experience."

She added that "even though the shirts are anonymous, because they're so personal, they can't help but affect people," Kaplan said.

University Law students will collaborate with undergraduate organizations to form a panel including members of the Rape Crisis Advocacy Project, Virginians Aligned Against Sexual Assault and the Office of the Dean of Students to discuss recent sexual assault legislation.

The panel, titled "On Grounds, Off Grounds: The Latest Scoop on Sexual Assault and the Law," also will focus on "what University policies there are in relation to sexual assault charges," according to Shamim Sisson, senior associate dean with the Office of the Dean of Students and chairwoman of the Sexual Assault Board.

Sisson said the University recently revised its sexual assault policies, and that she expects the panel discussion will address the proposed changes. The panel will provide the first public opportunity to talk about the policy changes, she added.

In the last program planned for the week, the student organization Sexual Assault Facts and Education will introduce a new curriculum aimed at training bystanders of sexual abuse. The co-ed workshop, "Speak Up, Step Forward: What Is Your Role as a Bystander?" will address issues of gender, empowerment and bystander responsibility, Kaplan said.

Kaplan said she hopes that the workshop, because it coincides with Family Weekend, will draw both student and parent participants.

The prevention of sexual assault is "a topic we certainly hope the month of October will bring heightened awareness to," Sisson said.

But although there is a concentration of programs held in October, Sisson and Kaplan both emphasized sexual assault is an issue that is important throughout the year.


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