Sexual assault awareness week informs students of harmful media messages

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Students learned about the different messages that are shown in the media about women, alcohol and its relation to sexual assault as part of Sexual Assault Awareness for Everyone Week.

The event, hosted in Live Oak Hall Thursday night, discussed the Steubenville case about a 16-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted at a high school party and what students can learn from sexual assault in connection with media advertisements.

Students learned about the term sexual assault and the different situations that are considered assault.

The term sexual assault means forceful sexual contact with another person or forceful sexual contact without consent, according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary.

Gabriela Herrera, peer educator with Project Discovering Alternatives for Today’s Encounters (D.A.T.E.) and guest speaker, said sexual assault is an overall term that covers several violations such as sexual battery, which means the unwanted touch of breast, back and butt.

“It’s not a topic that’s talked about very often, it’s a scary topic,” said Julianne Hoehn, 22, senior psychology major.

Vaheh Hartoonian, assistant coordinator for peer programs said sexual assault and rape is a taboo subject in society and they wanted to encourage people to start talking about it more as a way of prevention.

“Conversation is where change starts (and) it’s where change begins,” Hartoonian said.

Students were able to see and learn about the mixed messages media advertisements of women with alcohol are sending to young men and women.

The media gives two different points of view for women and men, Herrera said. For women the message is that if women act promiscuous they are sluts and it acts as an excuse for certain behaviors, such as sexual assault, to happen to them.

For men it gives the message that if they are not sexually active they are not real men.

“They’re telling them man up, go sleep with that girl and sleep with as many as you can,” Herrera said.

Project D.A.T.E, in collaboration with other CSUN programs such as JADE, University Counseling Services, and the Valley Trauma Center, created the first S.A.A.F.E. week event.

S.A.A.F.E. Week is a series of events that are created to cover a wide range of topics that relate to sexual assault awareness.

“We need to get rid of this sex sells mentality in our advertising and we need to have more conscious conversations about sexual assault in our films, TV shows and movies,” Hartoonian said.

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