In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, UC Merced students took to the stage this Thursday in the Cat Quad to speak out against sexual assault and violence. CARE intern Jacky Garcia called the “Eleventh Hour” event “a showcase of art and expression created by individuals on campus to create a space where we can stand up against sexual violence.” In addition to poetry, songs, and inspirational messages read aloud by the presenters, the event featured artistic works put forth by students from the Art 23 “Multimedia Class.” Each piece presented the issues of domestic violence, assault, and rape in their own light, and many had synopses of the piece in question.
Daryn Smith, a UC Merced student and artist of a work on display titled The Invisible Scar wrote:
“We see each other’s minds being affected every day. Affected by things being said, things being seen, things being experienced. We are each other’s experiences. We touch each other’s minds with our words, our actions, our feelings. With each touch the mind is changed, for the better or for the worse. We must be aware that the physical damage MAY go away, but the scars STILL cut to the core of the person.”
Several groups dedicated to raising awareness and providing assistance were also in attendance. UC Merced’s own HEROES organization and the Campus Advocacy, Resources, and Education (CARE, formerly known as the Violence Prevention Program) group both had booths set up at the event with informational flyers promoting the available resources both on and off campus. HEROES, a student health advocacy group on campus, allowed the event’s attendants to help in the creation of a large poster, designed to raise awareness and to be symbolic of the vow each contributor took to be an advocate for sexual violence victims.
In addition to the poster, attendants could visit the Clothesline Project to view a collection of T-shirts with charged messages about sexual violence written on them, and add their own words to the display by drawing or writing on small paper T-shirt cutouts. Messages on the shirts hanging by clothesline ranged from victim’s stories to simple messages like “You are Valued and LOVED.”
Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), a free service offered to UC Merced students to support their mental health also had a small presence at the program. According to their pamphlet, CAPS provides services “in a confidential atmosphere of acceptance and accessibility.” In addition to information about the program, CAPS provided stress balls with their brand to be handed out throughout the event.
Finally, The Valley Crisis Center, a group dedicated to providing “safe, confidential services at no cost for individuals whose lives have been impacted by domestic violence and sexual abuse…” was present at the event. Located off campus in Merced, the group provides assistance to any victims of assault at no cost with the help of their umbrella organization “Alliance for Community Transformation.”
Raising awareness is important to further any activist cause, and the students of UC Merced are working in cooperation with the CARE organization to make their voices heard to stand up for the victims of sexual violence and prevent that violence in the future.