The University of Montana has planned a month of events, as well as a social media campaign, to raise awareness of sexual violence for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
This year’s theme is "Strong Alone, Fearless Together." Events will stretch throughout April and will include virtual panels, movie screenings and discussions.
When the planning committee first got together, they were expecting to have one event, but through collaboration with community organizations, 21 events are on tap, said Alison Pepper, prevention education and advocate coordinator at the UM Student Advocacy Resource Center.
“It’s been really exciting to see all of these ideas come to fruition,” she said. “What’s unique about it is the collaboration that has gone into it. So many powerhouses across the community have come together for this.”
The Indigenous Art Market was one of the first of April’s events, and was sponsored by Missoula Project Beacon. The market was held virtually April 2-4, according to the university resource center website.
Missoula Project Beacon Representative Lauren Rodriguez said several artists from different tribal nations were a part of the event.
“A lot of really great artists depend on selling their art for disposable income, and this is a free platform for them to sell their pieces,” Rodriguez said.
Items for sale at the market included wooden sculptures, beadwork, porcupine quill artwork, contemporary Indigenous décor and face masks, among other mediums, Rodriguez said.
“We want to highlight that art is a form of healing,” Rodriguez said. “We use (the art) with survivors and advocates. When we use Native art in our hands we’re able to create a sistership bond and do this in a healing way.”
Other virtual events will include a showing of the documentary “The Bystander Moment” on April 8 to explore the role of bystanders in perpetuating sexual assault, harassment and other forms of gender violence, according to the resource center events website.
Pepper said it is important to increase awareness about sexual violence and help people access resources to understand how they can prevent sexual violence and harassment as bystanders.
“We want to inspire people to respond and be an ally,” she said.
On April 12 the resource center will host a panel to discuss what services are available to survivors of domestic and sexual violence. Speakers from the YWCA Missoula, Project Beacon, First Step and the resource center will take part.
“The Mask You Live In,” a documentary investigating the ways boys and men are socialized in modern U.S. culture, will screen on April 26 with a follow-up discussion, according to the resource center's website.
Social media messaging from the resource center will follow a different prompt every day to bring awareness and support to survivors. The resource center has a list of hashtags and accounts community members can tag to take part in the campaign.
The goal of the campaign is to engage the community in awareness through social media platforms, Pepper said.
Some upcoming prompts include "Sex Ed Class," "Intervention Strategies" and "Responding to Sexual Assault."
For a kickoff event, the university hosted a lighting of main hall on Thursday in teal and featured speakers from the organizations involved.
“This month is important to inspire people to respond to sexual violence and be an ally,” Pepper said. “We have a responsibility to prevent sexual assault.”
For more information about event times and details on social media posts, visit umt.edu/student-advocacy-resource-center/saam/default1.php.