April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the Rape Crisis Center of Central New Mexico is commemorating it with a series of educational efforts about consent. Community Education and Outreach Director Bianca Villani spoke with the Alibi about what RCCCNM is doing to create safer and healthier spaces, including the launch of the “Consent Is Our Culture” media campaign, college campus initiatives, Active Bystander/Sexual Violence 101 trainings at local venues and other community events.
For those who need a refresher on the topic of consent, Villani is happy to oblige. “Consent is an agreement between two (or more) people to engage in any sexual activity,” she said. “It is important to healthy, physical relationships. It shouldn’t be up to one partner to give consent and the other to get it; instead, both should be responsible for understanding the wants and needs of the other person.”
Villani states that the goal of RCCCNM’s new “Consent Is Our Culture” campaign “is for all New Mexicans to know what consent is, and to have the knowledge to form consensual, physical relationships.”
The national theme for this year’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month is “Safer Campuses, Brighter Futures,” and the Rape Crisis Center presents some grim stats about campus sexual assault: “Data from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center shows that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college, and 90 percent of female victims know the person who assaulted them.”
“Consent is an agreement between two (or more) people to engage in any sexual activity.”
Bianca Villani, Rape Crisis Center of New Mexico
When asked what data is available about the number of sexual assaults committed while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, Villani replied, “The data on this topic is actually pretty hard to find. There is debate about what can be classified as Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault (DFSA). However, we do know that alcohol is the number 1 date rape drug.”
UNM groups are set to partner with the Rape Crisis Center to host a campus-wide Action Day on Thursday, April 23, featuring the “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” march around campus to bring awareness to violence against women. The march begins at noon outside the UNM Student Union Building. On Thursday, April 30, the CNM Student Activities Center is hosting a resource fair from noon to 4pm at the main campus and a candle light vigil at 6pm.
Community outreach means more than a campus presence, though. Sunshine Theater participated in a consent night targeted at attendees of the April 10 Tech N9ne show. RCCCNM also launched Active Bystander/Sexual Violence 101 trainings for local venues. “The aim of the trainings is to empower staff at bars, clubs and entertainment venues to become active bystanders who help stop sexual violence from happening or escalating,” Villani said. She explained that the “training covers the different types of sexual violence, teaches staff how to identify a situation as sexual violence and how to safely intervene.”
In addition to being Sexual Assault Awareness Month, April is also National Poetry Month. On Saturday, April 25, at 7pm, Tractor Brewing at Wells Park (1800 Fourth Street NW) will present “It’s Consensual, Not Conceptual: A Poetry Reading Supporting the End of Sexual Violence.” The fundraiser features several local poets and is coordinated by RCCCNM Victim Advocate Alegra Roybal with Carlos Contreras.
If you find yourself inspired to incorporate consent and sexual assault awareness into your everyday life after April winds down, Villani offers some suggestions. “Consent is all about respect, and respecting other people’s individuality and autonomy is something we can do every day,” Villani said. “Finally, we can all be active bystanders. When you notice something suspicious among people in your community, whether it’s confronting the situation or subtly intervening, you can stop sexual violence.”