By Stephanie Huynh | Contributor | email@example.com
Photo credit: @uofsouthal_heart
“CONSENT SAVES LIVES.”
Messages about consent were written in popular places around campus on Friday, April 8, another of HEART Project’s activities that was part of the It’s On Us Spring Week of Action. Promoting Health, Empowerment, And Recovery from Trauma, or HEART, is a new organization on South Alabama’s campus that aims to raise awareness about sexual assault and support student victim-survivors.
It’s On Us is a national movement that works to combat sexual assault on campuses. They have over 450,000 pledge signers across 50 states, including Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. HEART is separate from It’s On Us, but their goals are one and the same.
Student Sophia Odland, a survivor herself, heard about the It’s On Us organization through a friend, and it led her to the HEART Project. “Once I heard what it was about and what it was for, I wanted to get involved and help get it started on campus,” said Odland.
Dr. Candace Selwyn, the USA HEART Project Director, told Joy Washington of USA News of the urgency to prevent sexual assault.
“Given an estimated 13 percent of all college students, 28 percent of female undergraduates and 23 percent of gender non-conforming undergraduates, will experience sexual assault during college, we must come together as a community to prevent what is possible and support those victim-survivors who have been affected by sexual violence,” said Selwyn.
HEART’s Week of Action spanned from April 4 to April 8. Their campaign included wearing teal to show support, hosting a Consent Q&A and encouraging people to share why “Starting by Believing” is important. On April 5, HEART sponsored the “Stop the Silence: Survivors Speak Out” student-only event in the Student Center Ballroom, offering a safe space for survivors to share their stories and for peers to show their support. Students also had the chance to anonymously tell their stories.
The Week of Events concluded with a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at the Student Health Center to celebrate its establishment on campus.
Odland estimated that there are about 10 to 15 volunteers so far, but more have reached out from their information tables and other events. HEART advocates could be called when someone reports a case of assault and they would inform the victim of their options following the attack.
For more information on how to get involved with the HEART Project, email Dr. Candace Selwyn at firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay up to date with the HEART Project’s events through their Instagram page, @uofsouthal_heart.