Huntsville and Walker County declare April Sexual Assault Awareness Month

by Ryan Goff and Madeline Panozzo

April is now officially recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month in Huntsville, thanks to the efforts of students, staff and faculty at Sam Houston State University.

Both the city and Walker County declared proclamations in support of a campaign to educate and inform the public about sexual assault, an oft-neglected issue that plagues our campus and our community.

The University Police Department and community partners joined SHSU students, staff and faculty at the formal reading of the declarations to show their support.

Victoria White, the Education Coordinator for the SAAFE House, says the proclamations are a huge step in the right direction, “Across our county we are recognizing that sexual assault is a problem and we are recognizing that we can’t be bystanders who don’t do anything about it.”

The SAAFE House, located in Huntsville, provides support to victims of sexual assault and other violence. The organization is joining with the Montgomery County Women’s Center to partner with SHSU, which is planning a series of events aimed at combatting sexual assault.

The kick-off event, Ignite the Night, will feature a march through the city to support sexual assault survivors.  It will start with an evening featuring music, dance and comedy that is aimed at raising awareness about the issue.

Research shows that one in four college women, and one in six college men is a victim of sexual assault

The discussion is important because it “brings awareness to the cause and (gives) a voice to the victims” according to Dr. Michelle Castanon, a staff psychologist at SHSU’s student counseling center.

SHSU has chosen to join the “Start By Believing” campaign. The movement is focused on the public response to sexual assault, and stresses the importance of knowing how to respond to a victim to improve outcomes.

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