Approximately one in four college women will be the victim of a sexual assault during her academic career. Most of those victims won’t report it; many will contemplate suicide, and junior Elizabeth Colianni wants to help.
At the University of Wisconsin– Stevens Point, health promotion students like Colianni are required to take a class in which they learn about various aspects of health psychology, including the effects of sexual assault. The students in health psychology then present a skit to the Healthy American classes on campus to show the reality of rape and raise awareness to the students.
“Students are educating students about what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable on campus. We all have intimate relationships and we need to learn; many students don’t even know what rape is,” said health psychology professor Celine Kline.
“Programs like this create curriculum infusion where we combine what we’re learning in the classroom to the lives of the students; student affairs and academics become blended,” Kline said.
After taking that class, Colianni, the Student Life Issues Director with the Student Government Association and the chair of the Sexual Assault Awareness Week task force, created a committee by simply taking something she learned and putting it into action.
“We are all fully aware of how big of an issue this is on this campus and campuses nationwide. We knew it was something that had to be addressed,” Colianni said.
To begin, Colianni and the women in the Women’s Resource Center brought forth the idea of having a Sexual Assault Awareness Week at the UWSP campus. They gathered about 20 people from the campus and community to create a task force and plan the awareness week.
“We saw UWSP students facing this extremely serious and personal issue and we knew something had to be done, so we went to work,” Colianni said.s
Each night of the awareness week free events were offered to students. To begin the week, rape victims and a Sexual Assault Education Panel, consisting of professionals in the area who provide services to sexual assault victims, spoke and gave presentations to spread awareness and hope. To end the week, the film “Precious” was shown in the Dreyfus University Center, along with a self defense night in the Health Enhancement Center.
As both a health promotion student and an employee for SGA, Colianni took the combination as an opportunity to bring her health promotions knowledge to life by making a difference for what she believes in.
“I am so grateful to have the position I do with SGA because it has provided me with this opportunity to make a difference on this campus in so many ways. It has allowed me to spread awareness of the issue of sexual assault this campus is facing,” Colianni said.
Emma St. Aubin