By Dave Dahl
SPRINGFIELD – University of Illinois Springfield is planting a flag – one thousand of them, actually – to call attention to the problem of sexual assault.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the first Tuesday in April is the Day of Action. Because public gatherings such as marches and speeches are discouraged during the pandemic, a UIS student’s idea this year was to plant one thousand tiny flags, each bearing a teal ribbon signifying survival of sexual assault, on the university’s quad.
Rexann Whorton, director of UIS’ women’s center, says each flag symbolizes 433 people who are victimized by sexual assault in America in a year.
The offender, says Whorton, is probably someone you know.
“The incidence of stranger sexual assault is extremely low,” Whorton says, “and that’s the case for all kinds of violence. You are much more likely to experience some form of violence from a friend, a neighbor, a trusted loved one, than a stranger, which is very sad; but it’s also the people you are around the most, so it kind of statistically makes sense.”
Sexual assault, Whorton says, can be anything from a violent rape to a crude joke in the break room.
Whorton says it’s time for jokes about sexual assault and rape must stop; that’s a good first step. Another is to become aware of resources in your community.
Dave Dahl can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org