On Tuesday, April 7, Rollins kicked off Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Twenty people per minute are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner in the U.S., and nearly one in two women and one in five men experience sexual violence victimization other than rape at some point in their lives.
Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), which is a national observance held every April, calls attention to how widespread sexual assault is, while promoting education and prevention.
For Title IX Coordinator Oriana Jimenez ’07MHR ’10MBA, the month is also a reminder of co-worker and friend, Yessenia Suarez ’14, who, along with her 8- and 9-year-old children, went missing in October 2013, after her husband, Luis Toledo, showed up at her job in Lake Mary and beat her up. She was 28.
“Yessenia was a staff member in the human resources department at Rollins for five months in 2012, and at the time of the murders, she was still a Rollins student set to complete her bachelor’s degree in the spring of 2014,” Jimenez said to the crowd gathered on Tuesday, April 7, at the 2015 Rally Against Violence, which kicked off SAAM at Rollins. “Unfortunately, Yessenia’s family never got to celebrate that achievement with her. Her life, and the lives of her two children, ended far too early at the hands of her husband—leaving her family, friends, and our community to pick up the pieces after this senseless act of violence.”
“It may be easy for some to walk through our campus and feel like nothing could ever happen to disrupt the balance of this beautiful place,” she continued, “but the fact is that there are many in our community who carry the burden of fear, violence, and trauma on their shoulders every day—and we would never even know it. Let today be the day that we tell those people that this community cares about you and wants to support you.”
Participants at the rally showed up in teal, the official color of SAAM, and took the It’s On Us Pledge. In addition, Acting President Craig McAllaster asked Rollins men to join him in taking the White Ribbon Campaign Pledge, in which participants “pledge to never commit, condone, or remain silent about violence against women and girls.”
The event was one of several that are planned throughout the month, including Break the Silence, a campus-wide event that will be held Friday, April 17, from noon to 2 p.m. to commemorate National Day of Silence.
For more information on what to do if you or someone you know has been assaulted, visit rollins.edu/titleix.